When Nikola started trading on the Nasdaq in June, the U.S.-based clean transportation company raced quickly to a valuation of almost $30 billion.
Its market worth has since fallen to a more reasonable $10.5 billion, but that’s still pretty good for a business yet to generate any revenue. Its most promising products are its heavy trucks, powered by electric batteries or hydrogen fuel cells.
The rise of Nikola (whose name, cheekily, is another evocation of electrical engineer Nikola Tesla) will have reinforced a view among European auto industry executives that the U.S. stock market operates by different rules.
While Tesla is only modestly profitable, it’s valued at about $275 billion, more than Europe’s five largest automakers combined.
At least Europe has a stake in the latest heavily hyped project. Founded by Trevor Milton, a 38-year-old American college dropout, Nikola is relying heavily on expertise from the old continent.
Robert Bosch has helped develop the U.S. company’s electric powertrain, and the first Nikola trucks will be built in a German factory belonging to Italy’s Iveco, a truck maker backed by the billionaire Agnelli family.
Bosch and Iveco each own more than 6 percent of Nikola. CNH Industrial, Iveco’s parent, just recorded a $1.5 billion fair value gain on that investment.
The biggest question is whether a startup dependent on so much external help should have a valuation like Tesla, which builds much of its technology itself. And if Europe has this expertise, why hasn’t it produced its own rival to Elon Musk’s automaker?
Maybe it’s a lack of bravado. Nikola’s name is not the only reason it’s often compared with Tesla. Milton’s hyperactive Twitter presence makes Musk look tame by comparison. Both men’s ambitions extend beyond selling zero-emissions vehicles to producing and storing clean energy.
While Nikola is focused on heavy-duty trucks, it has touted