Some scooter companies are moving away from shared devices and into the retail marketplace. Courtesy photo.

Santa Monica has a heated history with e-scooter companies, which while beloved by many are often accused of causing litter, injuries, and lawsuits. David Hyman, the CEO of e-scooter startup Unagi, believes the launch of an Unagi storefront on Abbot Kinney marks a new chapter in the Westside’s relationship with these popular scooters. The store, which opens today in competitor company Bird’s backyard, will allow customers to buy or purchase a subscription to its lightweight foldable scooters.

Given the rise in complaints against dockless e-scooters and the hygiene concerns of the pandemic, more people are opting to buy their own devices over using scooter-sharing apps. The opening of Unagi’s storefront comes on the heels of a Sunday announcement that Santa Monica-based Bird will start selling its new Bird Air scooter online and at Target.

“L.A. has always been a big market for us. I think it’s ground zero epicenter for electric scooter culture and Abbot Kinney is my favorite street in the United States of America,” said David Hyman, the CEO of Unagi.

The Bird Air retails at $599 while Unagi’s scooters sell for $840 for the single-engine model and $990 for the two-engine model. Unagi scooters are also available for a $34 a month yearly subscription or a $39 a month monthly subscription. The Unagi store is located a mere ten minute drive from Bird’s headquarters in Santa Monica and from the Santa Monica storefront that Lime, another e-scooter competitor, opened and subsequently closed in 2018.

“Unagi is built to another standard. We charge a lot more for them but you get what you pay for. Our scooters are made out of carbon fiber and magnesium. It’s incredibly lightweight for the power and the power that we have is double that of a Bird Air. If you want torque to go up any hill or real acceleration we are the best game in town,” said Hyman.

The brick and mortar store will give customers the opportunity to try out the scooters before purchasing a device or a subscription. If subscribers encounter any mechanical issues Unagi will provide a replacement scooter within 24 hours. The subscription service also includes insurance against theft.

The pandemic has provided a big boom to the e-scooter market and many new personal scooter models are popping up in addition to Unagi and the Bird Air.

“Bird Air was born out of the groundswell of support we’ve seen this year for modeshift and micromobility as individuals increasingly demand sustainable, socially-distant transportation alternatives for their active lifestyles,” said Scott Rushforth, Chief Vehicle Officer at Bird, in a Sept. 20 press release.

Unagi scooters have been on the market since 2018, but sales have skyrocketed in recent months. U.S. sales tripled between the first and second quarter of 2020 and international sales increased by 590% between Q2 in 2019 and 2020.

“We think that the global scooter market will be about a $35 billion dollar market by 2025,” said Hyman. “We believe that one-third of that market will be from scooters that are purchased and owned, one-third of the market will be subscription, and one-third of the market will be ride sharing rentals on the street.”

Clara@smdp.com