Whatever Happened To Segway?
The 2021 X260 electric dirt bike may bear the Segway brand name, but the X260 isn't built by the same company that produced the iconic low impact two-wheeled personal transporter that made the Segway name famous. In this article we'll take a look at why the Segway name is still around in 2021 even though the original Segway went out of business, who invented the Segway, who died on a Segway, as well as answer the 'is Segway a Chinese company' question.
Who invented the Segway
The original Segway was the brainchild of NY-born, NH-based American inventor Dean Kamen. Shrouded in secrecy while being built, the Segway prototype was given the code name "Ginger", after Ginger Rogers, the dancer. Financed by over $100 million in investor monies, work on the Segway started in 1999, and by 2002 it was tentatively ready to be released to the consumer market. Sales were lackluster from the start, and a 2006 recall of over 20,000 Segways for safety issues hurt profitability, and by 2007 cumulative sales were a dismal 30,000 units. By 2009, Segway's executive team realized something had to be done to salvage the company. Enter James Heselden.
Who died on a Segway
In late 2009, Segway Inc. was sold to James "Jimi" Heselden, chairman of a British company called Hesco Bastion Ltd., and Dean Kamen was no longer involved with the company. Heselden was a coal miner turned businessman who made much of his fortune with the Hesco Concertainer barrier system, and is sometimes erroneously credited with inventing the Segway.
Proving that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, less than a year after buying Segway Inc., Heselden died when he accidentally drove his Segway off a cliff in West Yorkshire, England.
According to reports, in September 2010 Heselden was riding his Segway along a footpath when he fell down a 42' cliff into the River Wharfe, at the village of Thorp Arch which is in West Yorkshire, about 200 miles north of London. The West Yorkshire Coroner concluded that Heselden died from multiple blunt force injuries of the chest and spine.
Most accounts of the Segway death say Heselden "probably" stopped to allow a man walking his dog to pass, then lost control of the Segway when reversing the machine. Heselden was a big guy, and although he most likely didn't have a chance to yell "Help!" while falling down the cliff, he still must have made some involuntary ooofs! aaahs! and arghs! on his way down. How did the mysterious dog-walker not see or hear anything? Was the dog-walker wearing headphones? How did the authorities even know there was a dog-walker? Guess we'll never know how the accident really happened, but we do know what happened to Segway after Jimi Heselden's death.
In early 2013, Tennessee-based Summit Strategic Investments announced it had acquired Segway Inc. from the Heselden family trust for $9 million. Two years later, in April 2015, Segway Inc. was acquired by Ninebot Inc., a privately held Chinese company headquartered in Beijing.
Ninebot was founded in 2012 by a group of engineers and focuses primarily on the R&D, design, manufacturing, distribution, and sales of robotic transportation products such as scooters, go karts, hoverboards, and . . . dirt bikes. In 2019, the new Segway-Ninebot company partnered with Surron to distribute the Surron Light Bee electric dirt bike.
Segway in 2021
To summarize, the original American-based Segway Inc. has gone out of business. From the ashes has risen Chinese-based Segway-Ninebot. The Segway-Ninebot website has the 2015 acquisition labeled a 'collaboration' between Segway and Ninebot, but you can't collaborate with something that no longer exists. Segway is out of business and Ninebot bought the brand name and certain intellectual rights and copyrights. That's why the X260 electric dirt bike bears the Segway brand name, and also answers the 'is Segway a Chinese company' question.