Ford sells e-scooter division to SoftBank-backed European rival



A person displays the SpinBike shared electric scooter application on a Apple Inc. iPhone X in San Francisco, California, on Friday, April 13, 2018. 

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Ford Motor Company is selling its e-scooter business, Spin, to German rival Tier in exchange for equity.

The U.S. carmaker said in a statement that the merger will provide the scale that’s “desperately needed in the competitive micro-mobility sector.”

The deal comes after Tier acquired German bike-sharing platform NextBike in November and Vento Mobility, the Italian subsidiary of Wind Mobility, in December.

Lawrence Leuschner, CEO of Tier, told CNBC that the company is now the largest “multimodal micromobility operator” in the world, in terms of number of cities and vehicles, ahead of U.S. rivals like Bird and Lime. Tier claims to have a fleet of 250,000 vehicles across 410 cities. Roughly half of its vehicles are e-scooters and half are e-bikes.

“We are pleased to remain in the mix as a strategic investor in Tier and look forward to their continued growth,” Franck Louis-Victor, VP of new businesses at Ford Motor Company, said in a statement.

With the purchase of Spin, Berlin-headquartered Tier plans to expand into North America and increase its vehicles to 300,000. Its global footprint is expected to expand to more than 500 cities across roughly 20 countries.

Spin, a 100% subsidiary of Ford, has around 70 licenses to operate its vehicles across the U.S.

“We believe that the U.S. market is not only the biggest market in micromobility globally, but also we think there’s going to be a massive rebound after Covid,” Leuschner said, adding that deal is a “huge win” for Tier.

Leuschner said U.S. President Joe Biden’s new infrastructure plan and the desire from U.S. cities to “go green” will help make the U.S. market “really attractive in the future” for micromobility companies.

Tier has raised a total of $660 million from the likes of Goldman Sachs and SoftBank. Investors valued the business at $2 billion in October when it raised a series D round.

Asked if Tier needs more funding, Leuschner said the company will look to raise capital again if it continues on its current growth trajectory. “There’s no IPO plans right now, ” he said.

The sale of Spin comes amid a period of consolidation in the so-called micromobility industry, which tends to include electric bikes and scooters, where many companies are yet to turn a profit.

The sale of Spin comes amid a period of consolidation in the so-called micromobility industry — which includes electric bikes and scooters — where many companies are yet to turn a profit.

Leuschner said “there’s a fair chance” Tier will be profitable next year on an EBITDA basis. EBITDA stands for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. He declined to say how much the company made in revenue last year.


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