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Nikola Confirms What We All Knew

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Nikola bust onto the scene with a lot of braggadocio. Then whispers that the founder was spouting bullshit turned into murmurs and yells, and then he resigned amid a workplace scandal. Now an internal review from Nikola affirms that he was full of shit. All that and more in The Morning Shift for February 26, 2021.

1st Gear: Internal Review Confirms Founder Was Exaggerating

Nikola recently hired an outside firm to conduct an internal review of the claims coming from Nikola’s now-disgraced founder. Unsurprisingly, the internal review found that he was about as full of shit as everyone thought.


Nikola claims this is for the best, as Bloomberg reports:

The company’s internal review found the questionable assertions — seven of which were made by Milton and two by Nikola — were “inaccurate in whole or in part, when made,” according to the filing.

The misleading statements included a December 2016 claim by Milton that one of Nikola’s first prototypes, the Nikola One, was a fully functioning vehicle. Bloomberg News reported in June that Milton had greatly exaggerated the capabilities of the truck and that it could not be driven at the time it was shown publicly because of missing parts, according to people familiar with the matter.


Nikola’s chief executive officer, Mark Russell, told analysts on a conference call Thursday the company’s downsized agenda is a better fit. “We now believe Nikola is in the best position the company has ever been to execute on our core business plan.”


There is a lot of money to be made in the car industry, but it’s never a quick buck. That’s why Tesla has to come at things sideways, and trying on those Tesla clothes ... sometimes you find they don’t fit.

2nd Gear: SUVs Are Now Erasing The Gains Made By Cleaner Cars In The U.K.

Engine technology is lightyears ahead of where it was a few years, a few decades ago, and yet our emissions aren’t falling by huge percentages. The problem is that we’re buying up more and more SUVs, which are erasing our gains. A new review of the situation in the United Kingdom confirms that what’s been happening here in the States is happening there, too, as Bloomberg Green reports:

Average emissions from new cars in Britain fell 13% from 2011 through 2016, then increased 6% through 2019, the National Audit Office said in a report Friday. Several factors combined to cancel out any progress from sales of battery-powered vehicles, including surging demand for SUVs, increased road traffic and revisions in the way emissions are measured in the wake of the industry’s diesel scandal.

SUVs climbed to a quarter of new-car sales in 2019 from just 6% in 2008, according to the report. The spending watchdog doesn’t analyze emissions data for 2020, when the U.K. saw record sales of electric vehicles.


The rise of SUVs has been a global phenomenon with more than 200 million on roads worldwide, up from 35 million in 2010, the International Energy Agency said in 2019. The IEA said then that SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global carbon-dioxide emissions since the beginning of the decade, behind the power sector but ahead of heavy industry, trucking and aviation.


Banning SUVs seems crude, but so does a strict gas tax.

3rd Gear: I Can’t Believe Chrysler And Vauxhall/Opel Are Under The Same Umbrella

The news item here is that Vauxhall wants government money to help it switch over to electric vehicle production. It just shocks me that Stellantis is the one doing the asking here. It’s a reminder that somehow the eternal GM holdout of Opel/Vauxhall are part of the same organization as Chrysler now. Anyway, here’s the main news, from Bloomberg:

Stellantis is reviewing options for its Ellesmere Port car factory in England including closing the plant if it cannot reach a deal with the British government on new investments.

The automaker is considering revamping the factory that employs about 1,000 people for production of full-electric cars, according to a person familiar with the matter. The move would reflect the UK’s planned combustion-engine ban and its push to build up green industries.


Stellantis was formed in January from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Group, which bought Opel and Vauxhall from General Motors in 2017.


I keep telling myself that I’ll never get used to this, but maybe there are still people who think of Ford being in the Ren Cen.

4th Gear: Ford Wants Gov’t Help On Batteries, Charging

Ford is having a hard time these days with semiconductor chip shortages causing production halts in Europe and issues with product launches never quite going away. What does Ford want? Government support for EVs!


I’m with Ford here, because we as a country need to plan our economy more in terms of ramping up our electric infrastructure and industry. Ford only cares now because it has the Mach E out and the electric F-150 coming, but what am I gonna be, mad?

Via Reuters:

Ford Motor Co.’s CEO on Wednesday called on the U.S. government to support battery production and charging infrastructure development, as he outlined the automaker’s plan to develop electric platforms for its top-selling trucks, vans and SUVs.

“We need to bring large-scale battery production to the U.S.,” Ford CEO Jim Farley said at a financial conference, adding that he planned to highlight the issue in talks with government leaders.


Policy support for increased U.S. production of EV batteries and better charging infrastructure for electric commercial vehicles will help drive demand for those vehicles, Farley said.

“We can’t go through what we’re doing now with chips,” he said, referring to the shortage of imported semiconductors that has caused the temporary shutdown of several U.S. auto plants.


5th Gear: Here’s A Good Story On Silicon Valley’s Military-Industrial Complex

I am old enough to remember when people first started to realize that Google — Google! — wasn’t just a cute search company that gave us little bits of art every day, and was in fact a giant evil surveillance company like every other Silicon Valley business out there.


Now, the ties between tech and government are staying tight, with weird drone hardware in the mix. Here’s a nice report in the New York Times that you should read on the subject. An excerpt:

On a recent afternoon, [28-year-old Palmer] Luckey, dressed as if ready for the beach in a Hawaiian-like shirt, shorts and flip-flops, joined other Anduril employees at the company’s testing site near Camp Pendleton, a Marine training facility.

As the drone took off and swooped between the hills, Mr. Luckey said it could track an object and capture detailed images from seven football fields away. Using many of the artificial intelligence technologies that underpin self-driving cars, Anduril’s drones can identify and track vehicles, people and other objects largely on their own.

The drones are not armed, but could be useful for guarding bases or reconnaissance. The same sensor technologies that allow the drones to fly on their own could also be used to identify targets on a battlefield.

Mr. Luckey, who sold his previous company, the virtual-reality start-up Oculus, to Facebook for $2 billion, shrugged off the question of whether tech companies should willingly work with the military and intelligence communities.


Reverse: Peter Brock Born

Australian racing legend Peter Brock was born on February 26, 1945. He is a controversial figure, and certainly one of the more standout automotive icons to be brought down by the power of crystals.


Neutral: How Are You?

My parents got the vaccine. Meanwhile, I am baking bread again. Quarantine has come full circle.