General Motors just unveiled its electric bicycle in a bid to arm itself against an uncertain future for cars.
The largest U.S. automaker on Thursday released the name of its bike, Ariv, and said it will start taking orders in select countries in Europe.
The name is the result of a crowdsourced campaign announced in November. There are two versions: the Meld, a compact e-bike, and the Merge, a folding e-bike.
GM is launching the bikes in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, where lithium-ion battery-powered e-bikes are popular. In Belgium and the Netherlands, the Ariv Meld starts under $3,200 and the Ariv Merge is around $3,800. Prices will be slightly lower in Germany. GM expects to begin shipping to customers in the second quarter.
It is another move by a major automaker to broaden its portfolio to protect against the uncertainties of a changing market. GM and rivals have expanded into scooters, ride-sharing and self-driving cars in an effort to stay relevant in an era where consumers' transportation choices are changing. Even motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson has unveiled lightweight electric two-wheeler concepts as fears of declining ridership grow.
"I think both GM and Ford are both exploring nontraditional transportation opportunities because their overall vehicle sales have been declining," CFRA analyst Garrett Nelson said. "We view GM's e-bike and Ford's recent e-scooter investment [in Spin] as an attempt to appeal to a younger and more urban demographic, whose transportation needs are proving to be considerably different than prior generations."
With ride-hailing companies and similar businesses spreading, some industry watchers wonder whether broad swaths of future generations will even consider car ownership at all.
"Carmakers are highly concerned about the implications of this ongoing shift in consumer preferences on their long-term car sales, particularly with the rise of Uber, Lyft, and various ride-sharing options which weren't available several years ago," Nelson said. "Their fear is that this demographic may not need — or want to — purchase a vehicle at all."