It was high-tech, high-fashion, and just a little too impractical
Last year, the scooter maker Unagi launched an Indiegogo campaign for a vehicle it called Model Eleven. The campaign ultimately raised more than $700,000. Now, the company is saying it has canceled the Model Eleven entirely.
The Model Eleven, as Unagi initially described it, was going to be leaps and bounds beyond any scooter you’d seen on the road. The company billed it as “the smartest scooter on Earth” and promised scooter-specific directions via Google Maps, a camera system that could help riders detect obstacles and avoid crashes, a hot-swappable battery, a full suspension for more comfortable riding, and plenty more. It felt like Unagi’s swing at a luxury car and was priced accordingly: the base Model Eleven would start at $2,790.
So what does that mean for the few hundred Model Eleven backers, many of whom have been asking Unagi for updates for weeks without an answer? You have a couple of options. One, you can just ask for a full refund, and Unagi CEO David Hyman says he’ll honor all of those requests. You can also swap your commitment for a three-year subscription to the company’s new Model One Voyager along with some extra Unagi-branded gear. Or you can get two Voyagers that are yours to keep plus similar gear. Hyman says his hope is that both deals add up to about the cost of the Model Eleven — but he also expects most people to just ask for a refund. The people who wanted the superscooter might not settle for anything less.
The Eleven isn’t going to ship, but Hyman says it’s not because the company couldn’t pull it off. It’s been a tough road through the pandemic, with supply chain issues everywhere, but Hyman thinks Unagi could have gotten there. It just… might not have been a good idea. “It was a passion project for me,” Hyman says. “We really wanted to put something out there that defined our brand as building, like, the absolute best.” Unagi spent what he describes as “an incredible amount of money” getting it ready, even though the company always knew it would be expensive to build and low margin to sell.
More recently, the company has decided to focus its whole business on subscriptions. It doesn’t want to sell you a scooter once; it wants to rent you one every month. Its pitch is that, if you subscribe to a scooter, Unagi handles the maintenance and upgrades and even replaces the thing if it gets stolen. The original Unagi Model One costs $55 a month to rent; the new Model One Voyager, which has more range and some additional connectivity, is $67 a month. The Model Eleven, Hyman says, would have had to cost about $180 a month to even begin to make financial sense for Unagi. “And that’s getting close to a car.”
There’s a world in which Unagi had so much money and market share that it could afford to sell such a high-price vehicle to the few people who might want it, Hyman says. “If I was sitting on $100 million, would I put it out there just for brand marketing, even though we’d lose a ton of money on it? Yeah, sure.” But the company, which has raised about $13.7 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, has to stay focused on where its real business lies.
Still, Hyman says he hopes the work on the Model Eleven isn’t lost. He hints that some of the Eleven’s features will end up in other Unagi scooters down the road, and he still seems enticed by the luxury car idea. “The question is, when would consumers be at the point that they’re ready for a scooter at that price?” The supercar of scooters may yet have its day. Just not yet.