The auto industry has been on the verge of a major disruption for many years, with gas prices on the dramatic rise and more and more people looking opting for ride-sharing apps and other alternative methods. So a paradigm shift seems to be in the works: but what, exactly, does that mean?
Well, it looks like one strategy automakers are using to protect themselves from certain death is to invest in bikes and scooters.
That might seem a bit counterintuitive but Ford’s latest acquisition certainly seems to suggest this is, indeed, a strong strategy. This week, Ford announced it is picking up the scooter-sharing app startup Spin; and they are not even the first to invest in electric bikes and scooters.
More specifically, Ford has revealed a new—and aggressive—expansion plan to launch new mobility services in more than 100 cities over the next 18 months. According to Ford X (Ford’s mobility services development arm) vice president Sunny Madra, the company views scooters as an affordable and accessible way to get around in the city without the typical concerns like congestion, pollution, and parking.
So, why Spin?
Spin is a San Francisco-based company that launched dockless bike sharing about one year ago. Not long ago, though, the company made a shift towards scooter sharing. The company now operates in 13 cities and college campus around the United States; the program will launch in Detroit this week.
But that single expansion is not keeping up with more lively competitors like Bird and Lime, both of which have rapidly expanded in the past year or two. Even though these two companies have managed to raise hundreds of millions of dollars, they have occasionally encountered accusations of convincing cities to take their program through aggressive negotiation. Furthermore, Bird and Lime have said they completed about 10 million rides each within their first respective years of operation.
The eventual goal is to expand to at least 100 locations across the United States by 2020.
But is this really where the American commuter is heading? Are these services that necessary?
Well, the US governments National Household Travel survey advises that almost fifty percent of all vehicle trips in the US only have a distance of about three miles. Short trips, then, are an excellent target for “micromobile” strategies and that include electric bikes and scooters, which are not yet a widespread concept.