- Lime executive Caen Contee has insisted the scooter startup has “the safest product” despite the firm issuing two product recalls this month.
- People reported handlebars falling off scooters and the vehicles catching light.
- Contee said the firm went through several hardware iterations to improve the product and was transparent about what it offered.
- Lime is one of several fast-growing startups racing rivals – and the law – to establish dominance in the scooter market.
Caen Contee, vice president of global expansion and marketing told Business Insider at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon last week that the company designs its scooters in the US and then outsources the production to different companies.
“One of the reasons we’ve done customised devices and learnt so fast is to create what is the safest product, to create something that really does from day one… [serve] that trust [that] we’re always here, we’re always learning and always creating something better,” he said.
On October 31, Lime had recalled 2,000 Ninebot scooters after “unconfirmed” reports that some caught fire in at least three cities.
Now the company has recalled an unknown number of scooters made by Chinese manufacturer Okai after users across multiple cities reported that the handlebars had fallen off. Users on social media in Portland, Denver and Baltimore in the US reported problems, as well as in Paris.
Contee, who spoke to Business Insider before the reports of broken handlebars emerged, said scooter hardware was “nascent” but said the firm was innovating on the way Lime’s software made the vehicles safer. He pointed to the fact that Lime’s scooters have a capped speed limit in certain places at night, and that in Prague scooters aren’t permitted in “high pedestrian” areas.
Contee suggested Lime’s users were loyal because the company learns from its mistakes.
“Ultimately when you’re trying to move in this space where it’s so nascent, where no one has created a vehicle for this particular use… if you haven’t made a core competency of being able to learn and take that feedback and iterate on hardware, then what can be done in six months of learning and [with] a different fleet type creates a loyalty you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
When Business Insider asked Contee how he might reassure would-be scooter riders alarmed by the flimsiness of the devices, he said the firm had been transparent in what it’s created.
Still, Lime’s terms of service state baldly: “You agree that neither Lime nor the Released Persons are liable for any injury or death suffered by You while using the Services, whether or not You are wearing a helmet at the time of injury.”
Scooter startups are worth billions, but there are lots of questions about the law and safety
Lime has clocked 20 million in the 18 months since its launched, and is worth $US1.1 billion after raising $US335 million from high-profile backers including Uber and Alphabet. Its biggest rivals include Bird, another US startup worth millions in backing, Europe’s Taxify, and a host of smaller regional firms.
All of the firms are racing to lure as many users onto their apps as possible, and to offer different types of new city transport, with Lime also offering electric bikes and electric cars.
But regulation and safety are proving thorny problems for companies that are taking a leaf out of the Uber playbook and perhaps prioritising speedy expansion over compliance.
A US man died in September after falling off a Lime scooter and not wearing a helmet, while a class-action filed in the US in October accuses both Lime and Bird of “gross negligence.”
Meanwhile, scooter startups have struggled to expand to Europe’s biggest market, London, because their vehicles don’t meet local regulatory standards. Business Insider revealed in August that both firms were hoping to see changes in UK law that would permit scooters on London roads.
Contee said Lime was “pro-regulation” and that the firm hoped to convince London’s transport regulator, Transport for London, that it had created the best product.
The firm will introduce electric bikes to the UK, then plans to expand to other vehicles in time. “We will work to create relationships based on that, and we will work over time to add vehicles.”