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Ford Buys Electric Scooter Startup Called Spin

The Drive logoThe Drive 11/8/2018 Rob Stumpf
© via Ford

As a surprise twist to its mobility offerings, Ford has announced the acquisition of an electric scooter company called Spin. The acquisition will take place through Ford X, a Ford-funded incubator focused on alternative mobility solutions which the automaker had purchased earlier this year. The company hopes that the purchase will help address concerns over the "first and last-mile" of transportation by offering a convenient and low-cost urban mobility solution.

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"We understand mobility is not just vehicles at this point," said Sunny Madra, Ford X's vice president told Automotive News. "This is our play in addressing the micromobility business."

Ford plans on combating the problem of pop-up mobility by working with local officials to align the launch of Spin scooters. Earlier this year, startup Bird was one of several e-scooter startups which were criticized for launching their offerings into cities without forming a detailed public-facing plan. Mandra went on to address this by saying, "[The e-scooters] do not launch without permission; they share usage data with cities; and they work with local officials and university campuses to design educational tools around parking and riding rules."

Seeking permission for launch is key to success. Other startups which failed to work with the community ahead of launch have been subject to e-scooter vandalism among general outrage by some members in the community. Even Comedy Central's South Park recently aired an episode called The Scoots in which the Colorado town was infiltrated by problematic e-scooters that seemingly appeared overnight. This was addressed by some municipalities, like Detroit, by placing strict regulations on the operations and number of e-scooters allowed on the streets.

Earlier this year, Ford launched a strategic partnership with Perdue University to fund a project called Jelly; similar ride models were offered as part of a research study into determining how to best launch the scooters in different communities.

Spin currently houses operations in 13 U.S. cities and has brokered over 1 million rides since it was founded in 2016. Comparatively, e-scooter startup competitors Bird and Lime claim to have issued 10 million rides since their launches; it took Uber upwards of three years to reach 3 million. Ford X plans to increase these offerings to over 100 locations by the time it launches Spin at-scale in 2021.

Like most other e-scooter startups, Spin is priced at $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute to ride. The scooters are "dockless", meaning that they are grab-and-go when found and likely charged overnight by individuals who collect and plug-in the scooters for a nominal fee.

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No official fiscal details have been revealed, however, multiple sources have told Axios that the deal is worth around $100 million.

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