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Nikola’s (NKLA) stock crashes on reworked agreement with General Motors (GM)

Nikola expects to start testing prototypes of its hydrogen fuel-cell powered trucks by the end of 2021

Shares of Nikola Corporation (NASDAQ: NKLA) plummeted over 26% in afternoon trade on Monday after its previously announced agreement with General Motors (NYSE: GM) was massively scaled down.

Nikola and GM announced a supply agreement today under which GM would provide its Hydrotec fuel cell system for Nikola’s Class 7/8 semi-trucks. This transaction replaces the previous one announced in September.

Nikola expects to start testing prototypes of its hydrogen fuel-cell powered trucks by the end of 2021 while the beta prototype testing is slated to begin in the first half of 2022. The companies are also planning to discuss the potential use of GM’s Ultium battery in Nikola’s Class 7 and 8 vehicles.

“Heavy trucks remain our core business and we are 100% focused on hitting our development milestones to bring clean hydrogen and battery-electric commercial trucks to market. We believe fuel-cells will become increasingly important to the semi-truck market, as they are more efficient than gas or diesel and are lightweight compared to batteries for long hauls.” – Mark Russell, Chief Executive Officer of Nikola.

Due to changes in the agreement, Nikola has decided to refund all previously submitted order deposits for the Nikola Badger as the development of the Badger was dependent on an OEM partnership.

Some analysts speculate that this revised agreement will hit Nikola’s prospects significantly and that it does not bode well for the company. Nikola’s shares have gained 99% since the beginning of the year.   

Previous agreement

Under the previous agreement, General Motors was to take an 11% stake in Nikola for $2 billion and provide battery and fuel cell technologies as well as assist in the development of the Nikola Badger battery electric and fuel cell versions. At the time Nikola had anticipated saving over $4 billion in battery and powertrain costs over 10 years and over $1 billion in engineering and validation costs.

Controversies

Back in September, shortly after the initial deal with GM was announced, Nikola faced scathing allegations by activist short-seller Hindenburg Research that the company made false statements about its battery technology and that it did not produce its inverters in-house.

At the time Nikola clarified that it had been working on its own inverters and that third-party parts are occasionally used in prototype vehicles, which are then sometimes swapped for its own parts in production.

Shortly after these allegations were raised, Nikola’s founder Trevor Milton resigned from his position as Executive Chairman. These allegations also led to enquiries by regulatory agencies.

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