Nikola Motor Co. gained a crucial European partner and said its valuation would jump to $4 billion as it launched a new, $1 billion investment round.
The Phoenix-based company is pushing toward a 2022 launch of its hydrogen fuel-cell and battery-electric heavy trucks.
London-based CNH Industrial, parent of truck maker IVECO and truck powertrain developer FPT Industrial, will take the lead position in the Series D round with a cash and in-kind investment valued at $250 million.
Nikola said the new round would boost its total valuation to $4 billion. CNH’s investment of $100 million cash and $150 million of in-kind services will give it a 6.25 percent stake in the company.
The company said in April that it intended to raise $1.5 billion. It sliced that to $1 billion to reduce dilution of current investors’ stakes, Trevor Milton, Nikola’s founder and chief executive, told Trucks.com.
Nikola plans two trucking industry innovations. First is its high-volume, long-distance fuel-cell electric heavy-duty truck models. It also will market the vehicles at an “all-in” lease rate that includes fuel, service and maintenance with the truck.
The company has shown three Class 8 truck models. The Nikola One sleeper cab and Nikola Two day cab are aimed at the North American market. The Nikola Tre cab-over design is intended for the European market.
As part of its exclusive and global partnership deal with CNH, Nikola said that IVECO and FPT will assist with its engineering and manufacturing expertise to “industrialize” the Nikola trucks. The “Two” model is likely to be the first to hit the road, Milton said.
But the European market remains essential. Nikola designed the Tre for that region. It may launch with a battery-electric powertrain for shorter in-country and regional routes.
IVECO is one the world’s largest truck manufacturers. Nikola will utilize its widespread sales network, particularly in Europe, Milton said. The company makes trucks, buses and military vehicles under its name. It also produces emergency response vehicles under the Magirus name and owns the Astra heavy construction equipment brand.
“IVECO is a huge global player and this shows, more and more, that Nikola is a serious company,” Antti Lindström, an industry analyst with IHS Markit, told Trucks.com.
“Having FPT’s natural gas network to leverage for hydrogen production will be interesting as well,” Lindström said.
Nikola’s $1 billion goal for the new financing round isn’t overly ambitious, he said. “It needs a huge upfront investment to get its hydrogen network up so it will have something to support the trucks it wants to market.”
Including the value of CNH’s in-kind contribution in the funding round raises concern that other investors also will put up goods and services instead of cash, Lindström said.
Milton, however, told Trucks.com that the agreement with CNH was “a special situation because they had a production-ready chassis” for an electric truck. Other investors in the Series D round will be cash-only, he said,
Separately this week, CNH said it intends to spin IVECO off as a separate unit. That will not affect the Nikola deal or its ongoing relationship with IVECO, Milton told Trucks.com.
CNH, originally CNH Global, formed in 1999 with the merger of the Case and New Holland construction and agricultural equipment companies. Italy’s Fiat Industrial controlled both companies.
A subsequent 2013 merger of CNH and Fiat Industrial formed the present CNH Industrial. It is publicly traded, but Exor, the holding company for Italy’s Agnelli family, owns a controlling interest. The Agnellis also control automaker Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.
Milton founded Nikola in Utah in 2014 and relocated to Arizona in 2018. It is a privately held company that grew out of Milton’s experience with natural gas fuel storage systems and his desire to develop a zero-emissions truck.
Worthington Industries, an Ohio-based international industrial metals company, was an initial investor and remains a significant stakeholder. Nikola hired Mark Russell as president earlier this year – shortly after he retired as Worthington’s president and chief operating officer.
CNH and Nikola will set up a European joint venture. Nikola will contribute its fuel cell expertise. It also will provide key electric truck components including e-axles, power inverters and hydrogen fuel storage systems. And it will offer its operating software and vehicle-to-vehicle communications protocols.
The joint venture will apply FPT’s expertise in natural gas fueling to building Nikola’s hydrogen fueling infrastructure in Europe.
FPT – formerly Fiat Powertrain Technologies – is a major manufacturer of natural gas engines and fuel systems for passenger and commercial vehicles. Both FPT and IVECO develop natural gas fuel stations throughout Europe. Most hydrogen production is based on reforming natural gas to extract its high hydrogen content.
“Global climate change, geopolitical conflicts, future availability of fossil fuels and a self-aware circular economy all call for a fundamental change in how we operate,” said Gerrit Marx, head of commercial and specialty vehicles at CNH Industrial. Citing natural gas’ role in helping reduce truck emissions when used as a fuel, Marx said CNH believes that fuel-cell and battery-electric technologies such as those underpinning Nikola “will deliver the ultimate goal of zero-emission trucking.”