Nikola Motors founder and ex-executive chairman Trevor Milton reportedly purchased the original design for the Nikola One semi truck from a Croatian-based designer.
The Nikola One semi is the reason for a $2 billion lawsuit against Tesla, which says the Tesla Semi design infringes on its patents.
Tesla this week filed a rebuttal in the case, saying Nikola’s patent claim is invalid because they stole the design themselves from Adrian Mudri’s Road Runner concept truck. Mudri is currently the head of design at the Croatian car company Rimac Automobili.
According to sources familiar with the matter who spoke to the Financial Times, Milton bought the plans for the concept truck in 2015 for “several thousand dollars” after meeting with Mudri in Croatia in 2015.
After purchasing the plans, the Road Runner name continued to be used at Nikola, with the project referred to by the same name. This was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter, and a screenshot of a Nikola document seen by the Financial Times about the “Nikola Roadrunner Prototype Project.”
This revelation goes against everything we’ve heard thus far about the origins of the Nikola One semi design. In Nikola’s own lawsuit, the company claims Milton worked on the design of the truck since 2013, before hiring designer Steve Jennes in 2015.
The company says the two of them worked on the design in a lengthy process for over two years, before coming up with the final design.
Nowhere in its court filings against Tesla has Nikola mentioned purchasing design plans from Mudri, or Rimac.