Last year, scooter maker Unagi launched an Indiegogo campaign for a vehicle called Model Eleven. The campaign ultimately raised over $700,000. Now the company says it has canceled Model Eleven entirely.
The Model Eleven, as Unagi originally described it, was going to be leaps and bounds beyond any scooter you had seen on the road. The company touted it as “the smartest scooter in the world” and promised scooter-specific instructions via Google Maps, a camera system that could help drivers detect obstacles and avoid accidents, a replaceable battery hot, full suspension for a more comfortable ride and much more. It looked like Unagi’s swing in a luxury car and was priced accordingly: the base Eleven model would start at $2,790.
So what does this mean for the several hundred Model Eleven contributors, many of whom have been asking Unagi for updates for weeks with no response? You have several options. First, you can simply request a full refund, and Unagi CEO David Hyman said he will honor all such requests. You can also redeem your pledge for a three-year subscription to the company’s new Model One Voyager, plus additional Unagi-branded gear. Or you can get two Voyagers that belong to you and similar equipment. Hyman says he hopes the two offers will roughly total the cost of the Model Eleven – but he also expects most people to just ask for a refund. People who wanted the superscooter couldn’t settle for anything less.
The Eleven isn’t going to ship, but Hyman says that’s not because the company couldn’t. It’s been a tough road through the pandemic, with supply chain issues everywhere, but Hyman thinks Unagi could have made it. It was just…maybe it wasn’t a good idea. “It was a project I was passionate about,” 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 “incredible sums” getting it ready, even though the company always knew it would be expensive to build and low-margin to sell.
More recently, the company decided to focus all of its business on subscriptions. He doesn’t want to sell you a scooter just once; he wants to rent you one every month. His pitch is that if you subscribe to a scooter, Unagi takes care of the maintenance and upgrades and even replaces the thing if it gets stolen. The original Unagi Model One costs $55 per month to rent; the new Model One Voyager, which has more range and additional connectivity, costs $67 per month. The Model Eleven, Hyman says, would have had to cost around $180 a month to even begin to make financial sense for Unagi. “And it’s closer to a car.”
There’s a world in which Unagi had so much money and market share that he could afford to sell a vehicle for such a high price 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 if we’d lose a ton of money on it?” Yes, of course.” But the company, which has raised about $13.7 million in funding, according to Crunchbase, needs to stay focused on its real business.
Still, Hyman says he hopes the work on the Model Eleven isn’t wasted. He hints that some of the Eleven’s features will carry over to other Unagi scooters down the road, and he still seems drawn to the idea of the luxury car. “The question is when will consumers be ready for a scooter at this price?” The scooter supercar may still have its day. Not yet.