Ford says so long to scooter division Spin amid renewed focus on EVs

Industry

Ford Motor Co. unveiled a two-pronged future this week, with its gasoline-powered and electric businesses divided into two new business units.

Do two-wheeled vehicles fit into that vision? Not so much. Amid the new structural developments announced this week, Ford quietly sold its electric bike and scooter division, Spin, to European micromobility operator Tier Mobility AG.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Ford had acquired Spin for $100 million in November 2018, a time when the automaker wanted to explore new branches of mobility and scooter startups proliferated.

Along with the shuttering of ride-sharing service Chariot in 2019, the Spin sale and its EV-minded overhaul all affirm Ford’s vision of mobility remains one centered on personally owned automobiles.

Spin’s operations across the U.S. give Tier its first foothold in North America. The company says it operates in approximately 410 cities with a fleet of 250,000 vehicles. With the purchase of Spin, it now has a global network of 520 cities and 300,000 vehicles.

Tier’s vision for the combined operations is one that’s decidedly different for the transportation landscape.

“Both companies believe in a partnership-first approach, operating with employees rather than contractors, and helping get people out of cars by offering sustainable, equitable and safe micromobility services,” Spin CEO Ben Bear said in a written statement.

Berlin-based Tier will soon embark on investing and modernizing Spin’s fleet, with plans to add swappable batteries to e-bikes and scooters across the fleet.

The acquisition marks the latest major development for Tier, which closed a $200 million series D funding round in October. Last year, Tier acquired Italian market leader Wind Mobility and German competitor Nextbike.

Tier, founded in 2018, says it has raised $660 million in equity and debt since its inception. Its investors include SoftBank Vision Fund 2, Mubadala Capital, Northzone, Goodwater Capital and others.

Ford acquired San Francisco-based Spin at a time when the micromobility company had operations in 13 cities across the U.S., and when the company’s e-scooters cost $1 to rent and 15 cents per minute. The company saw an opportunity to help people on trips that were three miles or less.

“Everywhere you look around the U.S., people’s mobility choices are changing,” Sunny Madra, then-vice president of Ford X, the company’s internal startup accelerator and incubator, wrote at the time of the acquisition. “In crowded and congested cities, especially, many are reconsidering their transportation options.”

With four years of hindsight, it now seems, at least from Ford’s perspective, those considerations still exist — but those options are primarily between internal combustion engines and electric powertrains for traditional automobiles.

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