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September 19, 2022 3:59 PM   Subscribe

A Dubious Truck, a Whistleblower Army, and Inept Spies: Inside the Very Weird Nikola Saga [Bloomberg; ungated]

Dueling Portraits of Nikola Founder Trevor Milton Presented at Securities-Fraud Trial [WSJ; ungated]
Trevor Milton founded buzzy EV company Nikola and positioned himself as the next Elon Musk—then his $34 billion house of cards came crashing down [Fortune]
Nikola takes on diesel with battery EV heavy-duty truck in Europe, now available to order [Electrek]
posted by chavenet (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
"I wanted to pay people to do my homework. That’s what real CEOs do.”
posted by doctornemo at 4:43 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


I can't get past the name of the company to be honest, how could a company that lacking in imagination be taken seriously. It feels like a dumb joke that was put in as a placeholder on some marketing slides and nobody thought to come up with a real name.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:55 PM on September 19 [14 favorites]


[Milton] went to college to meet girls and learn how to socialize, and left after a semester. “I didn’t even [graduate college], because I wanted to pay people to do my homework. That’s what real CEOs do,” he once said on Instagram Live.
So, Elizabeth Holmes literally has twice as much college as this clown.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:15 PM on September 19 [13 favorites]


I can't get past the name of the company to be honest, how could a company that lacking in imagination be taken seriously. It feels like a dumb joke that was put in as a placeholder on some marketing slides and nobody thought to come up with a real name.

Come on, the advertising writes itself, a bunch of people in the mountains wearing lederhosen and blowing giant horns. NIIIIIIIIIIIKOLLLAAAAAAA!
posted by Literaryhero at 5:16 PM on September 19 [25 favorites]


Also, the company that was supposedly developing commercial hydrogen fuel cell tech was brought down by an investigation by... Hindenberg Research? I hope that whoever's working on the inevitable streaming miniseries has already licensed AC/DC's "Shot Down in Flames."
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:21 PM on September 19 [16 favorites]


Come on, the advertising writes itself, a bunch of people in the mountains wearing lederhosen and blowing giant horns.

Stop trying to make lederhosen look dumb.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:44 PM on September 19 [8 favorites]


some of my fondest memories of being pandemic-trapped in the house involve taquito boyfriend gleefully updating me on the latest piece of hokum Nikola had perpetrated to quarter-assedly pretend they had a viable product

I think one time they managed to produce a single truck that could roll down a hill if you pushed it?

looking forward to rtfa
posted by taquito sunrise at 6:00 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]




When I got to the end of the post title, I thought this was going to be about Carlsen, Niemann, and anal beads.
posted by clawsoon at 6:12 PM on September 19 [18 favorites]


So, Elizabeth Holmes literally has twice as much college as this clown.

Alternative hypothesis: there’s enough bored money floating around that all you need to do is cosplay a successful CEO tolerably well to be rolling in it.
posted by mhoye at 6:21 PM on September 19 [10 favorites]


This is SO Utah! SO freaking Utah! Utah used to be the penny stock fraud capitol of the US, it is the MLM capitol of the US, and the diy confidence game capitol of the West. There is a spirit there that you can do anything, backed up by people who are gullible, instead of neophytes, try Nephites, Moronites, Parawanites. Utahans are largely hopeful, hardworking, clannish, and then across the top is this diamond ceiling, of money made in arms, military contracting, mineral extracting, slave labor, and religious tithing which supports church investment and heirarchy of well paid church apostles and wealth managers. There are many industries, and Salt Lake City has a European appeal. But underneath this is a class of the "lost boys of polygamy," who know their options are limited and because they have been raised and worked illegitimately all their lives, they have no problem concocting air businesses. Bleeding the beast is what they call it. This is like a sophisticated version of the Bundy clan, whatever works to keep things rolling. This Mr. Milton is pretty much cookie cutter for Utah Hustlers. There is always some big weird thing gonna happen, always spiky haired guys in bad shoes and Mr. Mac jackets gonna bring the profit. Someone was going to build a DIY nuclear power plant on the Green River, someone is going to mine Thorium off Great Salt Lake, someone is going to pipe Lake Powell water up county, someone is going to sell Green River water to Colorado, someone is going to build a luxury resort and lifestyle development with golf courses, on Lake Powell.

There is so much money there, abundant, cheap labor, the real estate developers just stood Salt Lake County on it's head. The whole thing is a con, but the skiing is great, the land is gorgeous, it is truly beautiful, but there is always some squeaky clean con going on.
posted by Oyéah at 6:47 PM on September 19 [43 favorites]


I work in this industry and had a feeling Nikola was too good to be true , but I am still surprised just how full of Crap Milton was. The Spy bit is just funny.

The craziest part of it is that the company is still in business. The truck they are currently selling is made by IVECO with some batteries stuffed in it. I am not sure who their hydrogen fuel cell supplier is going to be, but they certainly have no tech of their own.

Meanwhile Daimler and Volvo trucks are taking in orders by the hundreds, and actually delivering trucks. But I am afraid the Nikola fraud set back the industry a bit by over promising with no way to deliver.
posted by CostcoCultist at 7:02 PM on September 19 [4 favorites]


Alternative hypothesis: there’s enough bored money floating around that all you need to do is cosplay a successful CEO tolerably well to be rolling in it.
This is very true. All it takes is a good slide deck. Recently I saw a company raised $millions based on “applying machine learning to Electric vehicle charging siting decisions.” Their analysis was way less advanced than what the national labs make available for free.

After I missed my chance to short Nikola, I tired shorting another EV charging company who knew did not have an market advantages. At one point I was up a few bucks but ended up loosing around $300. After that I decided shorting was for the professionals. I used to worry about vulture capitalism, but now I want to see fraudulent ceos and VCs lose their shirts
posted by CostcoCultist at 7:19 PM on September 19 [2 favorites]


It feels like a dumb joke that was put in as a placeholder on some marketing slides and nobody thought to come up with a real name.

History sorta repeats itself.

"Against everyone’s advice he (WM. Durant) paid fifty-six thousand dollars for a faltering, one-man electric-refrigerator company that served only forty-two customers, on the ground that refrigerators were related to automobiles—both were essentially cases containing motors. A contest to find a name for the company was won by “Frigidaire.” *

Going through 9 different sources, this is the accurate, what it doesn't say is that Durant held the naming contest, $100 prize, and it was Durant who came up the name. interesting question is if he took the $100. but I've talked to Durant's biographer and I did ask him, he said probably not but it was a measure that Durant took, the sense of democratic illusion of leadership. He could sell like no other, Chrysler was going to ask for $50k a year salary. Durant gave him $500k.
"The most spectacular error was purchasing the Heany Lamp Company for seven million dollars in General Motors stock to obtain a patent on an incandescent lamp that turned out to be fraudulent."*
*
So it doesn't surprise me G.M. bought in. Are patients involved. Interesting that in 1886' after riding the road cart, Durant took a train to the maker, made a deal that day for patient, in the business the next.
posted by clavdivs at 7:22 PM on September 19 [1 favorite]


This is SO Utah! SO freaking Utah! Utah used to be the penny stock fraud capitol of the US, it is the MLM capitol of the US, and the diy confidence game capitol of the West.

This came up in the You're Wrong About podcast series about the fake druggie teen memoir Go Ask Alice (prev. on the blue) and the expose book Unmask Alice. Beatrice Sparks took a few grains of truth and spun a whole lot of bullshit around them that not only created bestsellers and an entire career for herself but also influenced public policy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:50 PM on September 19 [3 favorites]


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