Nikola Corp., the electric trucking company, is defending itself against the accusation of fraud that were made by short-selling firm Hindenburg Research. The accusation came just days after GM reported it was taking an 11 percent stake in the startup.

Nikola said the report from Hindenburg Research is “false and defamatory” and was “designed to provide a false impression to investors and to negatively manipulate the market in order to financially benefit short-sellers, including Hindenburg itself.”

The startup said it has briefed the US Securities and Exchange Commission on the report and will cooperate with the agency regarding its “inquiry.” (A spokesperson for the SEC declined to comment.) The Phoenix-based company also said it had hired a law firm, Kirkland and Ellis, to assess its choices.


Hindenburg’s report, released September 10th, is titled “How to Parlay an Ocean of Lies into a Partnership with the Largest Auto OEM in America” — a reference to the news that GM was teaming up with Nikola to help engineer and manufacture the startup’s battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Hindenburg says that Nikola had been involved in “lies and deception” in showcasing its electric vehicle technology, including faking a video that showed one of its trucks cruising down a hill.

“Our investigation of the site and text messages from a former employee reveals that the video was an elaborate ruse,” Hindenburg writes, “Nikola had the truck towed to the top of a hill on a remote stretch of road and simply filmed it rolling down the hill.”

In a statement Monday, Nikola said there were “dozens” of false statements in the report, and it defined multiple examples. But the company isn’t disputing that it staged the video that appeared to show the truck as functional.

“Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video, although the truck was designed to do just that (as described in the previous point),” the company states. “The truck was showcased and filmed by a third party for a commercial. Nikola described this third-party video on the Company’s social media as ‘In Motion.’ It was never described as ‘under its own propulsion’ or ‘powertrain driven.’”


The company said it ultimately decided not to finish the vehicle and instead shift its resources to another truck named Nikola Two. Nikola says that a preproduction model of the Nikola Two, “hydrogen-electric powered semi-truck for the medium and long-haul trucking sectors,” will be good for testing in 2021.

“This three-year-old video of a Nikola prototype is unimportant except for the fact that the short seller is trying to use it for its main thesis,” the company added. “The fact is, Nikola has real working hydrogen fuel-cell powered semi-trucks.”

Founded in 2015, Nikola’s goal is to make zero-emission big rigs using hydrogen fuel cell technology. While a bunch of companies like Tesla, Daimler, Freightliner, and other established players and startups that are working on all-electric trucks, Nikola is one of the few pursuing hydrogen-powered big rigs.