Nikola Totally Lied About Its Badger EV Having Nikola Parts, GM Engineer Says In Court

Scott Damman, a senior manager at General Motors who was sent to work with Nikola back when the companies were looking at a tie-up, testified in court that the EV startup’s former CEO made false claims about its electric pickup truck.

The startup’s former CEO, Trevor Milton, is being charged with securities and wire fraud for allegedly defrauding investors with false claims about Nikola’s business. Damman was called as a witness by the prosecution to talk about his experience working with the startup.

In his testimony, the GM engineer said that Milton had falsely claimed that Nikola was responsible for most of the parts being used to make the Badger, a pickup truck that the company planned to sell to the general public.

Read Also: Prosecutor Says Nikola Founder Became A Billionaire By Lying To Investors

In a video interview in 2020, Milton was recorded saying that the Badger is “probably 70 percent Nikola, 30 percent GM, when it comes to the parts that are really important to us.” That figure is disputed by Damman, though.

“There were no components coming from Nikola,” he told the jury, per Bloomberg. “They owned the creative design, what the vehicle looked like and felt like, but all of the parts were to come from General Motors.”

The automaker also took $5,000 down payments for the Badger in June 2020, before it had a prototype or plans to manufacture the pickup truck. Public discussions of the truck, and a short-lived deal with GM, helped inflate the company’s value and lure investors.

These false claims, and others about the Nikola’s success at slashing the cost of hydrogen, led investors to put more money into the company than they would have otherwise done. Joseph Ryan, another witness called by federal prosecutors, testified that he invested based on these claims and that it cost him around $160,000.

Milton’s defense team, meanwhile, argues that his words, meanings, and intentions have been distorted. Nikola’s current CEO, Mark Russel, isn’t helping the defense’s case, though, because he testified that Milton “was prone to exaggeration in public statements,” reports the Wall Street Journal.

If the defense team fails to convince the jury, Milton could face a maximum prison term of 25 years.

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