Sat. Oct 16th, 2021

“It’s true, I promise!” Nikola CEO Mark Russell posed for a stylized photo of the company’s first working vehicle at a factory in Ulm, Germany.

This is the first time since the group was accused of fraud by a short seller last year, and found that he had falsified a video of one of his prototypes by rolling down a hill, that Russell had a viable product to show the world — a white, heavy Tre truck built by the Italian manufacturer Iveco.

Depending on the load, it can drive more than 550 km on a single load in “ideal conditions”, Iveco and Nikola said. Journalists were offered test rides on a mostly flat track in the area.

But the hype that characterizes the presentations of Nikola founder Trevor Milton who are now facing charges of U.S. federal prosecutors for misleading investors about the products and technology of his company.

“We are going very carefully, slowly, deliberately,” Russell told the Financial Times. A maximum of 50 vehicles will be delivered to customers this year, half as many as Nikola previously predicted.

He warned that this number could shrink further than ‘semiconductors for touchscreens, for battery cells, it is very short worldwide”.

The partnership with Iveco – which includes plans for a hydrogen-powered truck that was also unveiled on Wednesday but will only start production in 2023 – has been central to Nikola’s business plans, after General Motors scaled down its proposed partnership with the company, which caused it to upload plans for a heavy trailer.

Mark Russell, CEO of Nikola
Nikola CEO Mark Russell: ‘We are going very carefully, slowly, deliberately’ © Sebastian Berger / FT

The Ulm site, which was unused after the production of trucks with trucks was moved abroad, but revived by Iveco for this project, will be able to produce 3000 units of one of the two trucks per year when fully operational. , said Iveco CEO Gerrit Marx.

The companies are also signing a memorandum of understanding with the Hamburg port to supply 25 Tre electric trucks by 2022. The Port of Long Beach, California, has already witnessed an intention to order the trucks.

However, the few dozen trucks manufactured at the 50,000 square meter factory in Ulm will first be exported to the US, before European versions (which are of different lengths and circles) are available in 2023. Another manufacturing plant is due to open in Arizona next month.

Marx was adamant that this time Iveco’s partner Nikola did not sell his capabilities too much. “What you see today is going into production,” he said, defending Iveco’s decision to continue with the business.

‘I could not do it alone, because Iveco, in heavy trucks, is the second smallest truck [manufacturer]. We do not have the pockets, let alone the software skills that Nikola has, let alone the integration of electric trains, [or] calibration capability. ”

In June, CNH CEO Scott Wine, who owns Iveco, told the FT that he was’ no fan ‘of Nikola before taking up the post, and that he had met the company in a previous role,’ was not excited about what [he] found. “But he added that the joint venture was” mutually beneficial “.

Marx said that Iveco wants to “exceed and outsmart” much bigger competitors, “that we can not spend”, and that he needs Nikola, who “can hire people and raise capital that I can not attract”.

Production line of trucks
The few dozen trucks manufactured at the 50,000 square meter factory in Ulm, Germany, are all exported to the USA © Sebastian Berger / FT

Still, Nikola, who became famous via a Spac in June 2020 and was briefly rated higher than Ford, despite not selling a single vehicle, now ‘definitely’ needs more money, Russell said. is he another year away from funds.

It raised € 300 million from a consortium of private investors earlier this year and wants to get more out of the market “at the right time”.

Russell conceded that Nikola does not find it as easy to persuade people to invest as when the group first listed.

‘There has been some enthusiasm for enterprises entering the public through the merger of special purposes,he told the FT, adding that Nikola would still want to address investors this year, “if it were opportunistically available to us”.

Asked how he would convince investors that Nikola’s problems were behind him, Russell said the start could only remain ‘focused and feasible’.

But the speaking executive did allow himself a short while. ‘We are the fast hairy mammal and [traditional competitors] is the large, reptilian brain, massive dinosaur. ”

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