Ford takes a spin on scoot­ers, ac­quires Spin for $40 mil­lion

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Money - By Peter Hol­ley

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.”

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