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N4T Investigators: Truck Trouble Update

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TUCSON (KVOA) - Nikola Motor Company has at least 400 employees in Arizona, a headquarters in Phoenix and has been building a plant in Coolidge. 

The News 4 Tucson Investigators have been following the company since the state gave away your taxpayer dollars to lure it to Arizona.  

In December, the News 4 Tucson Investigators gave an update. 

At the time, General Motors canceled a $2 billion investment into the big-rig builder.

It happened after the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) started looking into allegations of fraud an investor group made against the company, which Nikola called "false" and "defamatory" in a news release.

In a new update, Nikola ended a partnership with Republic Services, another Arizona based company. The two were going to jointly develop electric garbage trucks. 

In late December, Nikola announced the partnership ended.

In a news release, the company said, "After considerable collaboration and review, both companies determined that the combination of the various new technologies and design concepts would result in longer than expected development time, and unexpected costs..." 

A spokesperson for Republic Services told the News 4 Tucson Investigators, “Republic Services and Nikola have terminated the partnership announced earlier this year. We continue to believe that electrification is the future – and are proud that republic services is leading our industry in building a sustainable, zero-emissions fleet. This commitment to electrification is aligned with our multi-supplier strategy, and we’re continuing our ongoing EV partnerships with mack and Peterbilt. We also recently announced an investment in Romeo systems, a California startup that manufactures batteries for commercial vehicles. We believe the opportunity to learn from and partner with Romeo will continue to provide additional opportunities that support our electrification strategy. We look forward to working with all of our OEM partners to capitalize on innovative new technologies, advance our fleet electrification goals and drive responsible growth and value creation, and are planning to make additional purchases from various suppliers in 2021.” 

The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to know; how may this impact the company's future in Arizona? Will there be a return on the taxpayer's investment? 

After all, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA), the state offered Nikola a total of more than $4.8 million in incentives to put its headquarters here and $1.2 million have already been paid out. 

The News 4 Tucson Investigators asked the ACA if it still stands behind its decision to give Nikola more than $1 million worth of taxpayer-funded incentives. 

An ACA spokesperson said its original statement holds up. The original statement said, “Nikola has outperformed expectations and has been a great corporate citizen in Arizona to date. As you know, in addition to their manufacturing facility which is now under construction in Coolidge, Nikola has established its corporate headquarters and R&D innovation center in phoenix which has been operational for over a year,” adding that, it's important to note, all of the ACA financial programs are performance-based, meaning companies must meet certain job-related metrics before receiving funding.” 

So, the News 4 Tucson Investigators asked if job promises still stand amid the DOJ investigation and recent partnership termination. 

A Nikola spokesperson said a representative was not available for an interview but said, "Nikola is looking forward to a great 2021 as we meet our milestones that will transform the transportation industry. As a designer and manufacturer of zero-emission battery-electric and hydrogen-electric vehicles, electric vehicle drivetrains, vehicle components, energy storage systems, and hydrogen station infrastructure, Nikola is driven to revolutionize the economic and environmental impact of commerce as we know it today.” 

A spokesperson then shared the company video below which shows its Coolidge plant, and said it demonstrates how the company is "only looking and moving forward".

According to a Nikola news release, the first phase of construction is scheduled to be done later this year.  

On Saturday, January 16th Nikola will be hosting a meet and greet hiring event for its manufacturing facility in Coolidge. A spokesperson said more than 100 positions are intended to be filled including but not limited to roles for Advanced Manufacturing Technician, Class 8 Mechanics, Paint and Body Repair Technicians, Production Supervisors, Junior Production Associates. The company's job hiring plans provide hope for those in our community who are in need of a job during a time of uncertainty.

Alexis Berdine

Alexis Berdine is an Investigative Multi-Media Journalist at KVOA.

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