(Benzinga) – Nikola Corporation (NASDAQ: NKLA) CEO Mark Russell took distance from the company’s electric pickup truck Badger in an interview with the Financial Times on Thursday.
What Happened: Russell sought to diminish the role Badger plays in the company’s business — a stance diametrically opposite to Nikola founder and former Executive Chairman Trevor Milton, who had announced the truck in June, FT reported.
“The Badger was an interesting and exciting project to some shareholders, but our institutional shareholders are mostly focused on the business plan,” Russell said.
The CEO added that Nikola’s “core business plan since before we became publicly listed always focused on heavy trucks and hydrogen infrastructure.”
Milton had pressed for the building of the truck in February, reasoning that the automaker had “billions worth of technology” in its semi-truck program, as reported by FT.
Why It Matters: The reduced focus on Badger is the latest attempt to steer the company away from Milton’s policies, noted FT.
Milton had pitched the Badger as a potent rival to the Ford Motor Company’s (NYSE: F) F-150 and Tesla Inc’s (NASDAQ: TSLA) Cybertruck.
However, short seller Hindenburg Research accused of multiple instances of fraud in September, leading to Milton’s resignation as the executive chairman of the company, even as he denied the allegations.
The automaker and General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) have yet to sign a deal that would give the latter an 11% stake in Nikola. The two companies have until Dec. to finalize the deal.
Russell told FT that all of Nikola’s key targets, including the production of its first electric truck in partnership with Italian industrial vehicle company Iveco S.p.A. later this year will go ahead.
The EV company earlier this month canceled an event in Arizona where it was set to unveil Badger, citing pandemic-related restrictions, as reported by CNET.
Price Action: Nikola shares closed almost 3.4% lower at $23.30 on Thursday.