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June 3, 2020 3:00 PM, EDT

Nikola Goes Public; Class 8 Battery-Electric Vehicle Due in 2021

Nikola TreThe Nikola Tre, which will go into production in Europe, its initial market, in late 2021. Some of the finished trucks will be funneled to the U.S., too. (Nikola Motor Co. via YouTube)

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VectoIQ Acquisition Corp.’s stockholders on June 2 voted in favor of the previously announced business combination with Nikola Motor Corp., a startup manufacturer of zero-emission heavy-duty trucks. That clears the way for what founder Trevor Milton said will be Nikola’s leading role in America’s “comeback” story.

“People are just [angry] across the board, and they really want change. They want leaders to stand up and say, ‘Look, this is the future, this is how we are going to change the world.’ I think that is why people want Nikola,” Milton, who becomes executive chairman, told Transport Topics.

The truck maker he launched in December 2016 with a prototype and a handful of engineers starts anew as a juggernaut with a potential valuation of $11 billion, judging from the recent soaring path of VectoIQ’s stock, which will be parceled into shares of the new Nikola Corp., ticker symbol NKLA.

STOCK SURGE: Nikola climbs 104% on third day of trading

The transaction also brings an immediate infusion of $700 million into Nikola, which is expected to accelerate vehicle production.

Trevor Milton, CEO of Nikola Motor Co.

Milton

“We want to fully vertically integrate the whole supply chain where we cover the fuel, the service, the warranty, the maintenance, the truck,” Milton said. “And by doing that, we are going to make five times as much revenue as our competitors do per truck we sell. Those kind of numbers are going to disrupt the entire world.”

Nikola’s first zero-emission Class 8 — the battery-electric Tre cabover model — will go into production in Europe, its initial market, in late 2021. Some of the finished trucks will be funneled to the U.S., too.

Nikola and joint venture partners Iveco and FPT Industrial announced in February they will manufacture the battery-electric Nikola Tre model at Iveco’s plant in Ulm, Germany.

The heavy-duty Tre is based on truck maker Iveco’s S-WAY commercial vehicle platform and integrates Nikola’s truck technology, controls and infotainment.

Iveco and FPT Industrial — the commercial vehicle brand and powertrain division, respectively, of London-based CNH Industrial — will contribute their engineering and manufacturing expertise to industrialize battery-electric and, eventually, fuel cell trucks.

Nikola Two

The Nikola Two, a Class 8 powered by a hydrogen fuel cell for the U.S. market, is scheduled to go into production in 2023. (Nikola Motor Co.)

A Class 8 powered by a hydrogen fuel cell for the U.S. market — the Nikola Two day cab model — is scheduled to go into production in 2023. Owners, through a lease, will have the option to trade in for a new Nikola vehicle every 700,000 miles or 84 months, whichever comes first, according to the company. The single monthly payment includes the vehicle, maintenance and the hydrogen fuel.

Milton often speaks about Nikola in thunderously optimistic sentences, but his outlook also is shaped by memories of his parents. Milton’s immensely supportive mother fought cancer for several years before dying when he was 14. His equally supportive father, now on Nikola’s board, invested everything he had at one point, only to see it vanish into a venture his son chased but could not realize. More recently, a steady stream of major partners from the more established side of trucking have invested and helped lift Milton and Nikola to these new heights.

“My father wanted me to know what it was like to fail and not give up, and to keep fighting until you can survive to figure it out. That’s a life trait that many people have never learned,” Milton said. “People don’t realize the amount of pain it is to see your dad lose everything just because he believed in you.”

Nikola is based in Phoenix and is building a truck factory in Coolidge, Ariz. It has pre-orders in hand that represent $10 billion.

Milton said the most important thing to do as a public company is provide good benchmarks and goals, achieve them, and allow the market to reward you for it.

RoadSigns

How can trucking companies adjust to ensure that essential freight keeps moving while protecting their workers from coronavirus? Host Seth Clevenger speaks with Lilli Chiu of Hub International and Dave Cox of Polaris Transportation. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.  

“If we screw up, it’s our fault, and that’s why it’s so hard to run a publicly traded company — you have to be visionary, take chances. You have to have guts, and you have to communicate. If you can’t do all those, you are just going to die a slow death.”

In related news, Nikola added to its board Stephen Girsky, CEO of VectoIQ and former vice chairman of General Motors Corp.

At the same time, Nikola and Ryder System Inc. mutually agreed to terminate Ryder’s exclusive relationship as the distributor and maintenance provider for Nikola’s hydrogen-electric heavy-duty trucks.

Nikola will draw on a network of existing truck dealerships to launch its trucks in the U.S., Milton said.

“The conventional truck dealership network is going to be a great resource for us,” he said.”We are going to start signing dealerships across the country.”

Meanwhile, all U.S. truck makers have reported they are starting to test various prototypes of electric vehicles.

But Milton said he was already 10 or 12 steps ahead of them.

“Right now, they are in their boardrooms talking about how they are going to make an electric truck,” he said. “That was my discussion five years ago.”

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