Tuesday 15 September 2020 11:43 am

Tesla rival Nikola admits faked video as SEC launches fraud probe

Regulators are said to be preparing to investigate fraud allegations against electric truckmaker Nikola, after the firm admitted to faking a video of its truck driving itself.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is to examine allegations against Nikola by short-seller Hindenburg Research, sources told Bloomberg.

Hindenburg, which profits off Nikola’s falling share price, claimed last week the company had misled its business partners. Shares in Nikola have fallen more than 40 per cent since the report.

Read more: Tesla shares set for worst day in six months as tech sell-off bites

Nikola said last night it had used a vehicle rolling down a hill to appear as if it were autonomously operated in a marketing video, relying on technology from other suppliers in early models.

However it accused Hindenburg of manipulating the stock to benefit short-sellers, adding that its legal team had contacted and briefed the SEC on its concerns.

In partnership with vehicle manufacturer CNH, Nikola said it is now building prototypes of its electric trucks. CNH said it aims to start testing the semi-trucks later this year, with plans to launch the vehicles commercially by the fourth quarter of 2021.

Read more: European electric vehicle sales surpass China for first time since 2015

“Nikola never stated its truck was driving under its own propulsion in the video,” the firm said in a 2,700-word response to Hindenburg last night.

“Nikola described this third-party video on the company’s social media as ‘In Motion’. It was never described as ‘under its own propulsion’ or ‘power-train driven’.”

The reports follow a move by General Motors last week to take an 11 per cent stake in Nikola, in a partnership valued at $2bn.

Nikola’s share price is down about eight per cent this morning in pre-market trading.