Ford, along with many other multinational automakers, is actively developing electric vehicles, but now the Detroit-based company sees commercial opportunities with a much smaller mode of transport – the electric scooter.

The automaker announced last week that it has acquired Spin, a dockless electric scooter-sharing company based in San Francisco that operates in 13 cities and campuses across the US.

“By combining our strength in automotive research and development with our commitment to connected and autonomous vehicles and our emerging software business, we are expanding our portfolio of scalable mobility solutions,” explained Sunny Madra, VP of Ford X, the company’s new mobility incubator.

He said the number of mobility options available to people has risen dramatically in recent years and that the acquisition of Spin – for an undisclosed sum – fits with Ford’s overall mobility strategy.

Spin first launched just two years ago and generates revenue by charging users $1 to rent one of its e-scooters followed by a charge of 15 cents per minute.

The company is one of a growing number operating in a market currently dominated by Ride and Lime, and the Financial Times reported that Ford plans to expand its fleet of e-scooters to more than 100 cities by 2020.

Its acquisition of Spin also makes Ford the first automaker to enter the mirco-mobility market, although Madra emphasised that the company doesn’t believe it is taking part in a passing trend.

“This is more than a craze,” he told The Detroit News. “This is really addressing a real need. It’s one of the spaces where we’re convinced there is starting to be a serious product market.”

He went on to tell the Financial Times that “the scooter business has been growing phenomenally across the board. The product-market fit is really becoming evident”.

Madra also expected that the deal with Spin would provide valuable insights that, coupled with some of Ford’s research projects, will help it succeed when it launches autonomous vehicles.

“The permitting process and everything that’s happened with scooters is foreshadowing what’s going to happen with AVs,” he said.

Sourced from Ford, Financial Times, The Detroit News; additional content by WARC staff