Nikola Motors, the defacto Tesla Motors copycat with a hydrogen twist, announced that they started taking $5,000 deposits for a pickup truck that only exists in renders and that they only plan to make due to Tesla Cybertruck.

While Nikola is the one suing Tesla for allegedly copying them, Nikola has definitely been following in Tesla’s footsteps.

Obviously, they decided to use Nikola Tesla’s first name after Tesla used the famed inventor’s last name. Also, after Tesla launched its “Tesla Energy” division, Nikola quickly followed with its own ‘Nikola Energy’.

Now that Tesla is making an electric pickup truck — the Cybertruck — Nikola is also making its own, and it’s directly related to the Cybertruck.

Before Tesla unveiled the Cybertruck last year, Trevor Milton, founder of Nikola Motors, tweeted renders of a pickup truck that the company created and suggested that Tesla could use those for the Cybertruck since Nikola didn’t plan to build a pickup truck.

The comment appeared to be tongue-in-cheek since Nikola is also accusing Tesla of stealing its design for its electric semi-truck.

However, after Tesla unveiled the Cybertruck and its polarizing design, Milton said that he now plans for Nikola to build the vehicle named Badger:

“We were not planning on it if he built a good looking truck. I was waiting to be first on the list, but I would never buy a Cybertruck. The Badger is what I was hoping Tesla would build design wise. So if he won’t, I will. Now our interest is sky high and why wouldn’t I?”

In February, they announced their plans for the Nikola Badger with a battery/fuel-cell hybrid powertrain enabling 600 miles of range, 0-60 mph acceleration in 2.9 seconds, and released a few renders:

Months later, we still haven’t seen a working prototype of the pickup truck, but today, the company decided to start taking reservations with deposits for the Badger.

Ironically, two years ago, Nikola made a big deal of reimbursing all reservations holders for its semi-trucks because it didn’t like to use deposits:

“Great news! All reservations will be refunded 100% and you won’t lose your place in line. We don’t use your money to operate our business. We want everyone to know we have never used a dollar of deposit money to operate the company on like other companies do.”

The mention of “other companies” was believed to be a jab at Tesla who is known to use this reservation model with deposits.

Nikola is now taking $5,000 deposits to reserve the pickup truck, which won’t be unveiled until December.

The company has also partnered with the Diesel Brothers from the Discovery TV show. The two brothers are going to get generous stock compensation for every Badger sold by Nikola, and with the latter’s valuation shooting up to $25 billion, the Diesel Brothers would receive millions if the pickup ever makes it to market.

Electrek’s Take

The sequence of events that led to this shows a lot about Nikola Motors.

Less than a year ago, Milton was saying that Nikola will not make a pickup truck. They had no plan to build anything other than having a few renders.

Then Tesla unveils the Cybertruck, and Milton unveils the design.

Remember, they only have renders at this point, and yet, they announce a bunch of specs — crazy impressive ones too.

Five months later, they still don’t have a prototype to show, but they start taking reservations with deposits — something they looked down on not too long ago.

The way it looks to me is that Nikola makes a bunch of claims about what they could do, generate a bunch of hype with reservations, and then try to figure it out from there.

I think it might be true of Nikola’s other products too. Bloomberg recently reported that Milton exaggerated when he said the semi-truck they unveiled back in 2016 was a working prototype, and I also heard that the powertrain was nowhere near finished when the truck was unveiled.

In short, I’d steer clear of Nikola until they can actually prove that they can deliver a product.

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