Ford takes a spin on scooters, acquires Spin for $40 million
Some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley have jumped into the electronic scooter business as it has rapidly grown from a series of experimental West Coast start-ups to a multibilliondollar industry competing in cities around the world.
Now one of America’s best-known automakers is jumping in the mix.
This week Ford announced that the legacy automaker from Detroit has purchased Spin, a San Francisco-based electric scooter-sharing company focused on the “last-mile” transportation market.
The $40 million purchase means Ford joins companies such as Alphabet, Google Ventures, Uber and Lyft, all of which have poured millions into the upstart e-scooter revolution.
“The number of mobility options available to people has risen dramatically in recent years,” said Sunny Madra, vice president of Ford’s innovations branch X. “In some situations, people use multiple forms of transportation during a single trip. The fast-paced, often experimental mobility sector requires businesses to keep up with agile and adaptable customers. At Ford, the products and services we offer need to reflect these changes.”
Unlike e-scooter behemoths Bird and Lime, which operate in dozens of cities and have expanded internationally, Spin scooters are available in 13 U.S. cities and campuses, including Coral Gables, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., Denver, Detroit and Washington, D.C.
The devices, which cost $1 to rent and 15 cents per minute to operate, are also popular among students at the University of Troy in Alabama, according to the university.
“We will continue to operate as a stand-alone business within Ford Smart Mobility, poised to expand aggressively,” the company’s founders said in statement announcing their acquisition by Ford.
In his statement, Madra emphasized that Spin works “hand-in-hand with cities and universities,” “shares data with cities” and “do not launch without permission.”
E-scooter companies like Bird and Lime have angered city officials across the country by dumping their devices on city streets without permission before striking deals within weeks after a local customer base has been established.
Spin has felt the wrath of local officials as well. After launching in San Francisco earlier this year, Spin was one of several e-scooter companies barred from operation while the city developed a permitting process.
When city officials launched a pilot program, Spin, along with Bird and Lime, was not among the beneficiaries.
As e-scooter companies fan out across the globe, they have brought numerous challenges with them, according to doctors, local officials and former riders. Critics have slammed companies for ignoring local laws, but they’ve also been blamed for a rash of injuries among riders, including head trauma and broken bones.
At least two people have been killed in accidents involving e-scooters in recent months, and companies like Bird and Lime are facing lawsuits, one of which accuses the companies of “gross negligence.”