If there was ever a time to test investors' enthusiasm for the auto industry, it probably wouldn't be right now.
Health fears have flattened the car business, and they also haven't been too nice to the stock market.
But Trevor Milton doesn't see it that way.
Milton, the founder and CEO of Nikola Motor, a startup that intends to make hydrogen fuel cell-powered big rigs and pickups, listed his company on the Nasdaq exchange earlier in June, through a merger with an already-listed entity called VectoIQ Acquisition Corp.
Milton believes investors are looking for a chance to get beyond the gloom of the moment and participate in the disruption of the transportation industry.
In other words: This isn't the wrong time for a new idea—it's the right time for it.
"When you're fundamentally transforming industry, the investors love you," Milton told Automotive News as the moment drew near.
The listing will bring more than $700 million into Nikola. Milton needs it to support R&D, product development and factory construction.
The plan is to launch semi trucks built from the ground up as electric fuel cell vehicles, lease them to fleet operators and supply his customers with a nationwide network of dedicated refueling stations.
"We're going to build a company worth hundreds of billions, in my opinion," he said. "Having access to hundreds of billions in investment capital is virtually impossible with a private company.
"By going public, we're exposing everything about our company. There's no hiding what you're doing."
Milton admits he's an optimist by nature. But what an unlikely moment in history to encounter an optimist.
And what's more telling is that other people—even now—share his optimism.
Factories and labs and office buildings have been dark and deserted. And yet—typical of the auto industry—people already are hungrily looking for the next big idea.
Chappell is news editor covering suppliers for Automotive News, a sister publication of Rubber & Plastics News.