Aug 5, 2020 - Economy & Business

Scooter maker Unagi bets people want to rent rather than share

woman riding scooter

Photo: Courtesy of Unagi

E-scooter company Unagi on Wednesday debuted a personal scooter subscription service in Los Angeles and New York that allows people to lease their own scooter rather than take their chances with a shared one on the sidewalk.

Why it matters: In the COVID-19 era, people are wary of mass transit and shared vehicles, instead opting for personal cars, bikes and scooters that are seen as safer.

Unagi CEO David Hyman says the company — which sells scooters that retail around $1,000 — saw a surge of orders at the beginning of the pandemic. But not everyone can afford that price point or wants the commitment of a large purchase, he told Axios.

  • "We're seeing a seismic shift to personal transit," he said. "Many people now prefer access over ownership."
  • Consumers can lease a scooter for $39 a month, which includes maintenance and insurance.

Context: Unagi isn't the first to test e-scooter rentals. Bird, Spin and Bolt have also rolled out limited personal rental options.

  • The difference, Hyman said, is Unagi's sleek form factor and lighter weight, making it more attractive to bring into a customer's home or carry up to a four-floor walk-up apartment.
  • Shared e-scooter varieties are built to be bulky and heavy to withstand a hard life on the street.

Yes, but: Auto subscription services have failed to take off, likely due to the high price points.

What we're watching: The extent that people opt for personal vehicles of all kinds will have lasting implications for public transit, car use, the future of micromobility modes and traffic.

Go deeper: How the pandemic will reshape cities

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