I don’t know about you, but when I hear about Segway, it still conjures up images in my mind of mall cops and nerds on tech company campuses. However, most people don’t realize that Segway is a totally different animal these days.
After being purchased by the Chinese company Ninebot in 2015, Segway-Ninebot has been transformed into a powerhouse of personal electric vehicles. In fact, if you’ve been in a large city recently, you might have seen hundreds of Segway-Ninebot vehicles zipping around the streets in the form of popular new electric scooter programs.
Companies like Bird, Spin and Lime are all currently using scooters that are built by Segway-Ninebot.
In something of a Russian nesting doll situation, Segway, which was purchased by Ninebot, is backed by larger companies and funds including Xiaomi, ShunWei and Sequoia Capital.
That often leads to confusion about where certain products are made. For example, the Xiaomi M365 electric scooter is the popular electric scooter model used by Bird, Spin, Goat and many other electric scooter sharing companies. However, if you check its label, you’ll see that the scooter is actually manufactured by Segway-Ninebot.
Right now, Segway-Ninebot is looking towards a bright future. Electric scooter sharing services are expanding not just around the US, but around the world as well.
Multiple companies are locked in a rapidly escalating battle for market share, and each is flooding the streets of a growing number of cities with additional scooters each month. As these scooter share programs expand, so does the acceptance of the two-wheeled EVs.
Segway-Ninebot is now trying to capitalize on the scooter craze by developing more robust commercial scooter platforms. The current platform used by most scooter companies is a great little scooter, as we found in our review, but it was never meant for around-the-clock commercial use.
Segway-Ninebot’s global sales VP Tony Ho confirmed that some of the new additions to the platform will include higher grade batteries, upgraded tires and lights, and an internal connectivity device instead of the external black boxes added to current scooter share fleet vehicles.
According to Axios:
With a growing demand from scooter-sharing services, Segway-Ninebot says it’s developing an ‘Intel Inside’ approach to its business as a commercial supplier, developing a few products that can be slightly modified for customers… Segway-Ninebot is also planning to offer cloud-based software tools to make it even easier for business customers to set up and deploy scooters.
Despite the rapidly growing demand, it might not be totally smooth sailing ahead for Segway-Ninebot. Even as the company races to develop a commercial platform to meet the needs of scooter share services, those same businesses have also expressed interest in developing their own hardware. Doing so could help them reduce their own costs by cutting out the middleman – an important consideration for the relatively young companies that are still operating well in the red.
Furthermore, the Trump Administration has recently signaled its intention to impose a 25% tariff on imported personal electric vehicles including electric bicycles, scooters and motorcycles as part of the administration’s growing trade war with China and the rest of the world. Electric bicycle companies are already preparing to deal with significant ramifications of such a move, which would undoubtedly negatively impact Segway-Ninebot’s plans for US distribution.
Time will tell if Segway can return to become a household name again, and not as a punchline.
In my opinion, Segway-Ninebot is turning into a force to be reckoned with.
Just a year ago, the thought of a grown man riding a kick scooter was laughable. But today you wouldn’t have to look very far to find a businessman in slacks and a tie scooting around Santa Monica or San Francisco.
Products made by Segway used to be a joke. Now they are becoming commonplace. And that’s just the way the company wants it.
With an increasing product line of interesting EVs that offer convenient urban commuting combined with a public audience that is more accepting of such devices than they were nearly two decades ago, Segway-Ninebot stands a real chance.