A series of embarrassing setbacks, including allegations of fraud and deception by its founder, brought electric truck startup Nikola Corp. (NASDAQ: NKLA) crashing to Earth following a stratospheric beginning as a public company.

With Trevor Milton, the high-profile ringmaster of company hype out of the picture, Nikola since Oct. 1 has added three crisis-hardened directors with deep business, management and manufacturing expertise.

“The goal was to bring resources to the board that management can call on when needed,” Chairman Steve Girsky told FreightWaves on Tuesday. “We’ve been able to attract high-quality board members that will help us rebuild credibility with investors.”

Done with distractions

The 10-member board wanted 2020 to end with Nikola focused on building battery-electric and fuel cell trucks, constructing a new plant in the Arizona desert and advancing plans for hydrogen fueling stations.

Gone are the Nikola Badger electric pickup truck, a phantom project dependent on a manufacturing partner. For a few weeks, that looked like it would be General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM). But the automaker stalled and ultimately bailed on Nov. 30.

Last month, a Milton-constructed deal with Republic Services Group (NYSE: RSG) unraveled when Nikola discovered it couldn’t modify its truck design to create the 2,500 refuse haulers Republic had agreed to buy. Making the trucks would cost $200 million more and take a year longer than Nikola planned.

The loss of that contract wiped out the achievement of one of Nikola’s three promised milestones — a major customer contract. The company also failed to identify a partner for hydrogen stations. It did break ground on a $600 million factory in Coolidge, Arizona. 

“It’s not lost on the board that they need to start hitting their milestones,” Girsky said.

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