Ford Motor Co said on Friday it would acquire San Francisco-based shuttle service Chariot with plans to expand the service globally, another step in the carmaker expands beyond auto manufacturing to become a mobility company.
The Detroit automaker said Chariot plans to expand internationally, moving into five more markets in the next 18 months. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Ford, which said it would set up a “city solutions” team to work with cities around the world on transportation, is trying to diversify from vehicles sold to consumers into other modes of transportation amid massive disruption in the traditional automotive industry.
The bet on mobility in congested, urban zones helps protect traditional carmakers as the advent of autonomous vehicles and growing popularity of ride services like Uber and Lyft threaten car ownership. “By expanding our business model to include new forms of transportation – from bikes to dynamic shuttles and more – we are introducing new customers to Ford and creating new revenue and profit opportunities for the future,” said Jim Hackett, chairman of Ford Smart Mobility LLC.
The company also said it would launch its “Ford GoBike” bike sharing program next year with the company Motivate, adding new stations and 7,000 bikes throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area by the end of 2018. Currently, Chariot operates 100 Ford Transit shuttles in the San Francisco Bay Area along 28 routes. The on-demand shuttles will use data to map out the best routes to serve the public’s needs, Ford said.
Ford has already begun small, pilot shuttle programs in Kansas City, Missouri, and Dearborn, Michigan. Other carmakers experimenting with mobility services include General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Volkswagen and BMW.