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Nikola Founder on major deal with Republic Services

Trevor Milton, Nikola Founder and Executive Chairman, joins The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss the company's recent deal with Republic Services, the current state of the business, future outlook and much more.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: We've got some hot news from electric truck maker, Nikola, this morning. The company is teaming up with Republic Services, which is the second largest recycling and solid waste provider in the US to provide them with at least 2,500 electrified refuse trucks. Joining us now to discuss the deal is Trevor Milton, Founder and Executive Chairman of Nikola.

Trevor, always good to speak with you. I know this was a pretty big deal. Surprised it wasn't announced on the earnings call last week, but nonetheless, a good deal for you. When do those trucks start hitting the road?

TREVOR MILTON: Yeah, we wish we could have talked about it at the earnings. It was just that the alignment was just a couple of days off. So finally today we got to announce it. It's the largest order of electric vehicles in the Class 8 market in history in the US. It's a huge deal. It's 2,500 trucks guaranteed and an option up to 5,000 trucks.

So Republic Services is the second largest waste collector in America, and we plan on rolling out all their existing natural gas and diesel trucks. Our goal is to convert every one of them with them, and it's a binding real order, 2,500 trucks guaranteed. So in your neighborhood, you'll hear a lot less trash trucks come in, and they'll be polluting zero emissions, which is pretty awesome.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: That really is pretty awesome and just a peek into what the future holds in that space. But what's it going to mean for the company's bottom line, and does it move up any timelines for you in terms of profitability?

TREVOR MILTON: Yeah, there's a couple big things that are happening. So first of all, those trucks will be built in the Coolidge factory right outside of Phoenix. So the factory we just broke ground on, we'll have that factory up and running within about 12 to 14 months. Out of that factory, we'll be building these trucks and also the Nikola Tre.

So for those of you who've been following us, the Nikola Tre is our battery electric Class 8 truck. It's made to drive up to 300 miles pulling a 80,000 pound load. We use that same platform on this refuge truck. And because we're able to do that, we're able to save a billion dollars in development costs, and we're able to get to market really fast. And so we'll be hiring more people than we ever expected out of Coolidge, and those trucks will be coming into Republic's hands in 2022 and full production in 2023. So pretty fast.

BRIAN SOZZI: Trevor, we last talked with you in June, and certainly, time does fly. Can you give us an update on the Badger electric truck? You have narrowed it down reportedly to three choices. As a partner to help produce this truck, can you share a name, and is it even an automaker you would be working with?

TREVOR MILTON: Yes, so for everyone out there getting to know Nikola, we do two major things. First of all, we're in the heavy duty industry like we just talked about for the big semi trucks. The other one we do is the consumer industry, and the consumer product is the Nikola Badger. It's an electric pickup truck that'll go up to 600 miles on a single charge. And we have three major OEMs around the world that wanted to manufacture that with us, and we decided to essentially pick the very best one for our company.

And our board is evaluating those right now, and we're in a quiet period right now with the OEMs, so in other words, they've asked us not to mention anything. But I can tell you, we've got it narrowed down, and we know where we're going. And it's some incredible news, and I honestly can't wait. Because on our earnings call, we promised three different things.

One, we'd announce a substantial order for our trucks before the end of this year. We just did that today. We beat it by four and a half months. The second thing we promised is a nationwide hydrogen station partner. We'll be announcing that soon. And the third one is is the OEM partnership for the Badger, and that will be coming very soon as well. I fully anticipate beating all of our promises and projections to the analysts by many months when I look at that.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You're expecting to generate revenue. Is it 2021? I know that the revenue that you generated recently was I think $36,000 related to some solar installations, for you, actually, Trevor. But when do you expect, is that still on track for revenue to happen in 2021? And can you get more specific, what quarter might we see that happen?

TREVOR MILTON: Yes, so we're a pre-revenue company. Everyone knows that. When we went public, we told all the analysts and all the investors, look, we have about a year til we get into revenue. So we will have small revenues coming in. Ultimately, that's just mainly around like apparel and clothing and things like that that people are buying. Also, I bought a bunch of solar from my company, because I want my houses to be zero emission.

And so, you know, some of that showed up on the recordings. But full, like when we get into actual revenue generating like big numbers, that'll all happen next year. Probably around the middle to end of next year is when we're anticipating those revenues hitting, and a lot of that's just dependent on the COVID. Kind of we have come a couple months window, you know? Some of our suppliers have been shut down for three or four months, so there is give you a couple month delay-ish just because of COVID, but nothing substantial.

BRIAN SOZZI: Trevor, is it frustrating being a public company? You clearly have a large number of backlogs for semi truck. You're announcing potentially coming close to a production agreement for your Badger. You're doing things that could fundamentally change how we transport goods and services. What's been your experience as a public company?

TREVOR MILTON: You, know it's interesting. Look, it's a little frustrating sometimes, for other, people not for me. And this is how I look at it. You know, everyone looks back and they're like, man, I wish I could've gotten into Tesla at $30 or $40 or $50, right?

But here's the thing. If you were to be in full production right now, our stock would be 10, 20, 30, 40 times what it is now, in my opinion. That's my opinion. I cannot guarantee that. So this is a chance for everyone to finally get in prior to the thing going nuts. And I think that's like a you don't get it both ways, you know?

So either you invest early and you get rewarded heavily, or you wait until the risk is completely gone, and you're paying a high premium, like everyone else is right now with Tesla. You know, $1,400, $1,500 a share. So I actually enjoy it, because I always tell people, look, everyone talks how they wish they could have gotten in early. We have $10 billion in backlogs with our Class 8 trucks.

We just signed a, you know, over a multibillion dollar order with Republic on for refuse trucks. We have our Nikola Badger coming out with an OEM. There's probably been very few companies in history that have as much upside as we do, and we allowed everyone to come in early. So it's a little hard, because we are pre-revenue, and we get hit by a lot of people for that. But it's also exciting, because we're doing it differently than everyone else has ever done it.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You know, Trevor, at one point, the company's market value topped out of Ford, which I'm sure was a mind blow for you.

TREVOR MILTON: Yeah.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Despite the fact that Nikola has yet to produce a single vehicle for sale, you know, I believe the company is valued at more than $13 billion. At some point, are you going to have to raise-- well, I would imagine you would-- but how soon might you have to raise some cash, and will investors feel comfortable doing it at that valuation?

TREVOR MILTON: Yes, so right now we have about over $900 million of cash in our account today, so we're very solid financially. I know a billion dollars doesn't sound like a lot of money in today's world, but it's a lot of money. It's almost a billion dollars in our account. We will eventually go out to the market for more capital. That was in our filings from day one. We told the investors, look, it'll require one or two more.

Tesla has done, you know, I think they've raised somewhere between $10 and $20 billion to get to where they're at. We've raised one. So it's a pretty-- like it's understandable that we're going to go out, but we also have a better business model. Our business model is based upon profitability, not upon unnecessary speculation. So I don't think we're going to need to raise the amount of money they've had to raise, because our actual business model is very, very profitable.

We make almost a quarter million dollars on every truck we sell. That's a huge amount of money, because we control the fueling infrastructure that comes with the truck. So we're just a totally different company than Tesla, but at the same time, we are going to have to go out for more capital down the road. But right now, we've got a lot of money in our account, and we're executing on time, so that's good.

BRIAN SOZZI: All right, let's leave it there. Nikola founder, Trevor Milton, always good to speak with you. I'm looking forward to seeing those electric garbage trucks go down my street. Tired of the ones blowing black smoke out into the sky.

TREVOR MILTON: Yeah, thanks, guys. Appreciate you for having me on.