Ford-owned Chariot shuttle service to close

Chariot, a Silicon Valley-based shuttle service that Ford Motor Co. bought to be a key cog in its mobility future, is closing.

Dan Grossman, the company’s CEO, said in a blog post Thursday that after “significant consideration,” the company has decided to shut down by the end of March.

“In today’s mobility landscape, the wants and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly,” Grossman wrote. “We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause Chariot’s riders and our enterprise customers. We are committed to ensuring our customers are aware of the decision and have time to make alternative transportation arrangements.”

He did not give a specific reason for the closure. A Ford spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Chariot, which ferries passengers in Ford Transit vans, was among the first big bets placed by Jim Hackett in 2016, when he was chairman of the automaker’s Smart Mobility subsidiary before becoming Ford CEO the following year. Ford paid roughly $65 million for the company, according to reports. After the acquisition, Ford expanded the San Francisco service to Austin, Texas; New York; Seattle; Detroit; and the United Kingdom. But in August 2018, Streetsblog NYC branded the service “a big, expensive failure,” using company-provided data to show that each of its vans in New York were averaging just five riders per day.

Chariot was founded in 2014. In Thursday’s closure announcement, Grossman — who was previously COO of General Motors’ Maven peer-to-peer car-sharing service — said Chariot had delivered more than 3 million rides since its inception.

“We helped Ford build their mobility business, and their experience with Chariot continues to inform their mobility efforts and design decisions for the future,” he said.

Since becoming Ford’s top executive in May 2017, Hackett has preached the need to develop “smart cities” with vehicles and other forms of transportation that can cheaply and quickly carry around passengers and goods.

Ford also has invested in bicycle-sharing and electric scooter companies.