September 9, 2023

Nikola asks customers to return electric trucks at risk of fires


Nikola Corp. is asking dealers and customers to return battery-electric trucks under recall for possible battery fires to its Coolidge, Arizona plant despite the company still working on a fix.

“We’re bringing them back to Coolidge for repairs to be made instead of in the field,” spokesman Dan Passe told FreightWaves in an email Saturday.

“We are able to keep a very close eye on all non-used vehicles (either from inventory or customers who are not running them daily) if they are on site in Coolidge,” he said. “And it enables a quick-timed repair once all final arrangements are made, as they’ll need to be in Arizona anyway.”

Fourth battery fire occurred Friday

Nikola reported a fourth battery fire on Friday in an engineering validation battery-electric truck undergoing battery fire investigation and testing near company headquarters in Phoenix. Firefighters extinguished the blaze in the parked outside. First responders also doused a battery fire Monday at Arizona Lithium, a Nikola customer in Tempe. No injuries were reported in either incident.

Nikola announced a safety recall Aug. 11 for trucks in dealer or customer possession following a second fire in a battery pack. The recall said the trucks were safe to drive as long as the main battery disconnect switch was in the “on” position allowing Nikola to monitor the trucks remotely. Nikola told owners to park the vehicles outside to allow for easier monitoring. 

The first battery fire on June 23 spread and damaged four other trucks parked outside Nikola’s headquarters. The first truck reignited on July 23 and was quickly extinguished.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said on its website Aug. 15 the trucks should be parked outside to prevent a possible fire from spreading to nearby vehicles or structures. This is standard language in safety recalls involving potential fires.

Dealer letter tells owners to get trucks back to Arizona

In a letter to dealers dated Aug. 22 — before the two most recent fires — Nikola said it wants to get the recalled trucks back to its plant pending repairs.

“This will allow repairs to be made in the most efficient manner and under the supervision of the Nikola engineering team,” the letter said. Nikola is delaying the sale of new battery-electric Tre BEV models until repairs are complete.

Truck-as-a-service startup WattEV is monitoring the 14 Nikola electric trucks it operates from a public charging facility at the Port of Long Beach in California, CEO Salim Youssefzadeh told FreightWaves on Thursday. 

WattEV also is experiencing delays in getting 87 Volvo VNR Electric day cabs it ordered because Volvo on Aug. 7 recalled most of its electric trucks for a defect that could cause a fire.

Nikola stock price tumbles below $1 as latest fire reported

Nikola’s stock price (NASDAQ: NKLA) slipped below $1 a share Friday, closing down 15.37% at 88 cents. Shares have fallen from $3.39 a share as recently as Aug. 3. That date coincided with a doubling of authorized shares from 800 million to 1.6 billion. Current investors face dilution as Nikola registers the additional shares for sale.

Most of the pullback stems from dilution concerns and short sellers — investors betting on the share price to fall. About one in five Nikola shares are in possession of short sellers, according to the investing site Seeking Alpha.

Nikola received a delisting notice from the Nasdaq in late May because its shares sold below $1 a share for 30 consecutive trading days. The stock’s rebound in mid June began a string of more than 2 ½ months above $1 — more than satisfying the Nasdaq listing requirement that the stock remain above $1 for 10 consecutive trading days.

If necessary, Nikola could avoid a second delisting notice by conducting a reverse split, issuing one new share in exchange for multiple existing shares. The tactic does not impact the underlying share value but artificially creates a higher price.

Separately, Nikola CEO Steve Girsky will hold an online fireside chat with investors on Wednesday, answering questions submitted in advance.

3rd Nikola battery-electric truck catches fire

Nikola stock slides into reverse after share count doubled

Nikola gets delisting warning from Nasdaq

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.


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