The global market for EScooter sharing is undergoing rapid changes. Not a day goes by without the announcement of another city opening its streets or cycle-paths for these electric vehicles so ideally suited for the transport of humans on the last mile. The latest news: US automotive giant Ford purchases Escooter Sharing company Spin.
I had the pleasure of using Bird Escooters in Tel Aviv last week. At the websummit in Lisbon in the past days I was using Lime Escooters in Portugal’s capital while avoiding massive queues in tubes and buses on my way between the fair and the inner city. Let me be frank: I am a big fan of these vehicles, in my recent posts on use cases of these Escooters you can read about my conviction that these mobility devices have the potential to help cities cope with the demands of human transport on the last mile. Escooters habe to be an integral part of a multimodal mobility strategy for each modern city.
It is a fact that 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.
Affordability, combined with ease of use and electrified power, means that scooters are a solution to tackle challenges such as traffic congestion, parking availability and pollution. This presents a significant opportunity as research shows nearly half of all trips made in the U.S. are 3 miles or less, according to “The Micro-Mobility Revolution,” a report by Populus.
Ford’s own solution: Jelly
That’s why earlier this year, Ford X, part of Ford Smart Mobility, LLC created a division that aims to quickly build, acquire and pilot new transportation products and services. This unit was responsible for a micro-mobility academic research project with Purdue University that launched the so-called Jelly scooters. “The research and development behind Jelly is enabling the Ford X team to better understand what’s required to succeed in the micro-mobility space”.
But Jelly was not quick enough in capturing enough market share within the rapidly expanding Scooter scene. Hence Ford announced yesterday the acquisition of Spin, a dockless electric Escooter sharing company based in San Francisco in order to accelerate It’s own micro-mobility solutions.
Spin is a micro-mobility service provider with operations in 13 cities and campuses across the US. At first sight this sounds like a low achiever as most of the publicity in the past months went to Bird or Lime. However Spins approach for growth was a little different.
„Spin is committed to working hand-in-hand with cities and universities to implement micro-mobility solutions responsibly, safely and sustainably as they expand their operations.“
At first sight this sounds exactly like the approach the two global Escooter players announce to be growing. The two American sharing giants Bird and Lime have their own understanding of how to grow globally as they both are equipped with millions of Dollars to conquer the world of urban Centers.
When you look behind the scenes, Bird and Lime were not really politely asking for permission when it came to entering new markets. They followed the „move first, apologise later“ approach, that was so famously invented by UBER a few years back when growing their services into new cities around the globe.
Bird and Lime were not shy of moving into cities like San Francisco without asking municipalities for permissions. They risked some heavy law suites and fines from some cities while still capturing large parts of the US market. Such strategy proved worthwhile in the US but backfired in Europe. Here cities like Munich, London or Valencia required a more sensible approach as not only the lawsuits but also the risk of not being able to be considered at all would have loomed for the disrupters.
Spin claims to not have launched without permission and was even offering to share usage data with cities. The company was working with local officials and university campuses to design educational tools around parking and riding rules. An approach which works well with the values of an established corporate such as Ford.
What does the Spin acquisition really mean for Ford?
Well firstly this is effectively a small purchase for a global mobility player. The price tag of m sounds more like a fire sale by a player that might have realised that the game of global growth demands an almost unbelievable stream of cash. This is in particular true in the fight for market share in the US let alone in aiming to win clients in markets such as China, Korea or Japan.
However it could prove to be a valuable asset within the mobility portfolio of Ford aiming to provide a seamless transportation experience for the modern consumer. LastMile solutions are a novelty for most traditional OEMs and Spin therefore complements Ford’s mobility portfolio well.
It is certainly not a coincidence that Spin launched its service in the home of American automotive manufacturing Detroit exactly on the day of the announcement of the acquisition. If you value the deal as a hire-acquisition it totally makes sense for Ford. And the Spin team will contribute their value to a global automotive giant on its way to change to a mobility solution provider.