Nikola Cannibalized a Ford for Hyped Badger Electric Pickup, Jury Told

Trevor Milton (center) exits court on Sept. 12.
Trevor Milton (center) exits court on Sept. 12. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg News)

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A Nikola Corp. prototype of the electric vehicle startup’s planned Badger pickup truck was made partly of components from a Ford Motor Co. F-150 Raptor, the jury in the criminal trial of Nikola founder Trevor Milton was told.

Engineers working on the heavily hyped Badger in 2020 merged parts from the gasoline-powered Raptor with a “chopped up” electric Nikola power sports vehicle, also in early development, former Nikola employee Brendan Babiarz told the jurors Sept. 15 in federal court in Manhattan. Babiarz, who led design and created renderings for the Badger, said it was done to meet a deadline Milton had imposed for unveiling the pickup.

“It took me a little by surprise,” Babiarz testified, referring to a tweet by Milton indicating that the company was going to start taking orders. “We were still developing, obviously, the trucks, and the timing was not adding up, so we did not have a definitive date.”

Milton faces securities and wire fraud charges, accused of hoodwinking investors by portraying inoperable products as fully functional and lying about the company’s technology and partnerships. He faces a maximum prison term of 25 years if convicted of the most serious charge. The defense has called the case “a prosecution by distortion,” arguing Milton was just following the company’s marketing plan and never said anything he didn’t believe to be true.

Babiarz is the third witness to testify in the trial, which started Sept. 13 with opening statements.

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