GM scraps plan to buy stake in Nikola and build its electric pickup

DETROIT — General Motors and Nikola Corp on Monday announced a reworked agreement on a fuel-cell partnership that eliminates an equity stake in the startup for the Detroit automaker as well as plans for building Nikola‘s electric pickup truck.

In September, the companies announced a deal under which GM would supply batteries, a chassis architecture, fuel cell systems and a factory to build Nikola‘s proposed Badger electric pickup in return for an 11% stake and $700 million.

But the deal came into question after a short seller criticized Nikola as a fraud, something Nikola has denied. Eventually, Nikola founder Trevor Milton resigned, and federal agencies began investigating the fraud claims.

The new agreement, a non-binding memorandum of understanding, is subject to negotiation and a definitive deal, Nikola and GM said in separate statements.

Under the new deal, GM will supply its fuel-cell system for Nikola‘s Class 7 and Class 8 commercial semi-trucks, Nikola said. The companies are also discussing Nikola‘s potential use of GM’s Ultium electric battery system in its commercial trailers.

Nikola‘s shares initially rose almost 8% in pre-market trading, but subsequently turned negative and were down more than 16%. GM shares were marginally down.

Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives in a research note said the decision by GM not to take a stake in Nikola as originally planned “will be viewed as a clear negative” by some who had hoped that part of the agreement would remain in place.

Nikola said it would refund all previously submitted order deposits for the Badger as that rollout was dependant on a manufacturer partnership.

“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,” Nikola Chief Executive Mark Russell said in a statement.

GM said Nikola will pay upfront for the capital investment necessary for the fuel-cell capacity. The fuel-cell system will be engineered at GM’s technical facilities in Pontiac and Warren, Michigan, and built at its Brownstown Charter Township battery plant in Michigan.

“Providing our Hydrotec fuel cell systems to the heavy-duty class of commercial vehicles is an important part of our growth strategy,” GM global product development chief Doug Parks said in a separate statement.

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