Nikola, CNH building electric truck prototypes for 2021 end launch

U.S. Nikola's logo is pictured at an event held to present CNH's new full-electric and Hydrogen fuel-cell battery trucks in partnership with U.S. Nikola event in Turin

(Reuters) – Nikola Corp and vehicle equipment maker CNH Industrial said on Monday they are working to build prototypes of the EV maker’s Tre semi-truck, days after a scathing report from short-seller Hindenburg alleged Nikola of ‘fraud’.

CNH said it aims to start testing the semi-trucks later this year and hopes to launch the vehicles commercially by the fourth quarter of 2021.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is probing Nikola to assess the merits of Hindenburg’s allegations that the EV maker misled investors about its business prospects, Bloomberg News reported

Nikola, which had accused Hindenburg of manipulating the stock to benefit short-sellers, said its counsel had contacted and briefed the SEC on its concerns regarding the short-seller’s report.

The SEC did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

Shares of the electric-truck maker were down about 9% at $32.52 in extended trade.

Hindenburg had shorted the stock last week and said it had gathered enough evidence to show Nikola founder Trevor Milton made false statements about possessing proprietary technology to form partnerships with large automakers.

Hindenburg had also alleged that a seemingly functional truck, Nikola One, was “simply filmed rolling down a big hill” in 2017.

Nikola said it never stated the truck was driving “under its own propulsion” and investors at that time were aware of its technical capabilities.

Last week, automaker General Motors Co  took an 11% stake in Nikola and said the two companies will join forces to build electric pickup trucks and fuel cell commercial trucks to take on Tesla Inc .

GM’s deal with Nikola gives it scale and validates its technology, GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra told investors at an RBC conference on Monday, deferring any questions on the latter to the EV maker.

(Reporting by Ayanti Bera and Neha Malara in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri and Arun Koyyur)