The now-cancelled Nikola Badger hydrogen fuel-cell pickup truck was to be manufactured by General Motors with Nikola’s tech, but the latter had virtually nothing to do with the engineering of the truck, according to testimony from a GM executive.
Scott Damman, a senior manager in GM’s software division, was sent to work with Nikola after the two companies drafted an agreement to collaborate on the Badger, according to Automotive News. He testified against Nikola founder Trevor Milton, who is currently on trial for securities fraud, contradicting statements made by Milton in 2020 about Nikola’s contribution to the project.
“There were no components coming from Nikola,” Damman reportedly said. “They owned the creative design, what the vehicle looked and felt like, but all of the parts were to come from General Motors.”
That’s at odds with Milton’s claim that the Badger was “probably 70% Nikola, 30% GM,” made in a September 2020 interview, the same month GM announced it would build the pickup in exchange for payments and an 11% stake in Nikola.
The original truck first teased in November 2019 featured social-media jabs at the Tesla Cybertruck and Elon Musk, and it got far more attention than it otherwise would because of Milton. He took aim at the Cybertruck’s unorthodox design, and promised a range of 600 miles for the Badger, using a combination of fuel cells and batteries.
Nikola only showed a rendering of the Badger, and that hadn’t changed in June 2020 when the company began taking $5,000 pre-orders. The tall talk had already started around then, with Milton calling Nikola a BEV and fuel-cell leader, when it hadn’t yet delivered any vehicles.
A reveal event for the Badger set for October 2020 was cancelled, as GM looked to extricate itself from the partnership. Then in July 2021 Milton was charged with securities fraud for allegedly misleading investors about the company, including false claims that the Badger was further along in development than it actually was.
By October 2021, after the scandal with Milton broke, the Badger was reportedly likely to be dropped as part of a “base plan” that returned the company to its original focus on commercial fuel-cell trucks.
Nikola’s vast hydrogen refueling network that was supposed to support the Badger along with its other trucks hasn’t yet materialized in anywhere close to what Milton had been promising.
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