By on January 11, 2019

Ford Chariot Shuttle

Chariot, Ford’s app-based shuttle service, has announced it will throw in the towel due to the rapidly changing “mobility landscape” of major cities. When the company launched in 2014 with Jim Hackett at the helm, it joined a bundle of “microtransit” firms hoping to undercut brands like Uber while providing a viable alternative to public transportation.

Ford acquired the company in March of 2016 for a reported $65 million, proving that not every mobility firm can be a golden goose. It snagged Hackett and made him Ford CEO roughly a year later, where he continued to oversee Chariot as chairman of the automaker’s Smart Mobility subsidiary. Unfortunately, the service is no longer deemed sustainable.

On the upside of things, this ought to put a few coins in the jar labeled “Restructuring Program” at Ford’s Dearborn headquarters. 

Chariot, which serves nearly a dozen cities, conveyed the news via its blog, having unveiled a revised holiday schedule just four weeks earlier.

From Chariot:

In today’s mobility landscape, the wants and needs of customers and cities are changing rapidly. 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.

We are truly grateful to our commuters, enterprise customers, and partners for your support over the past five years. Chariot was built on a commitment to help reduce congestion, ease the commute and improve quality of life in cities, and since our start, we have provided our customers with more than 3 million rides. In addition, we helped Ford build their mobility business, and their experience with Chariot continues to inform their mobility efforts and design decisions for the future.

While the company has been active in several major cities (including New York and London), and appeared to be in good health, these types of services haven’t fared particularly well. Leap Transit permanently parked its luxury buses just three months after its 2015 launch, while Bridj moved is shuttle service out of the U.S. in early 2017 to focus on Australia.

Friday, January 25th will be the last day of Chariot services on commuter routes in the United Kingdom. The same will be true in the United States exactly one week later. All operations are said to cease by the end of March.

Ford Chariot Shuttle

[Images: Ford Motor Co.]

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17 Comments on “Ford’s Chariot Program Didn’t Last Very Long...”

  • avatar

    Without an active mobility program what will Hackett do?? Ford’s #FordSocial program is gutless without a way to connect to the youths!

  • avatar
    R Henry

    Now that Chariot is gone, time for Hackett to be gone too.

    Ford: Forget “mobility.” You are an automaker–a VERY good automaker. Keep your eye on the ball. Design/build great cars. Ignore all the noise about avs. bevs, etc. Let the other idiots like VW chase those Quixote-esque windmills.

  • avatar
    cimarron typeR

    Correction Ford is a great light truck and Mustang maker. Beyond that , all else is conjecture.

    • 0 avatar

      We are very satisfied with our 2013 5-speed Focus SE hatchback. However, its replacement won’t be another Ford since, by then, they will have ceased making anything we would want to buy.

  • avatar

    –it joined a bundle of “microtransit” firms hoping to undercut brands like Uber–

    smh. even in 2014 it was clear that Uber was growing purely because of its willingness to burn shareholder/VC cash to buy market share.

    You can’t undercut someone whose business model is voluntarily burning $100 bills unless you’re willing to burn more cash than them.

  • avatar

    I’d honestly never even heard of Chariot.

  • avatar

    65 million dollars lit on fire; another “forward thinking” mobility company dead in less than 3 years. Amazing how some of these unsustainable companies can last 5-10 years without turning a profit. A sucker is born every minute!

    Just imagine what could have been if that money had been put into literally anything productive. FFS Ford could have done a 1 month flash sale at 50% off MSRP every car in the lineup and lost a helluva lot less than this. Plus the PR value would be off the charts, and they’d gain some lasting marketshare through conquest.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to work for a very large transportation company. At one point, we got a chairman of the board who believed the core company had no room for growth and should be used as a cash cow to fund acquisition of more profitable companies. The core company had an aggressive, mission focused CEO who motivated the troops so that the supposed laggard outperformed all the new acquisitions. In the end, the chairman was forced out and his pet acquisitions were wold at a loss because he had overpaid for them.

  • avatar

    Ford got their CEO through an upstart mobility company? Things are starting to make sense now. What kind of shuttle bus has no windows?

    • 0 avatar

      He came from Steelcase and was on the Ford Board of Directors.

      The Transit vans they use have windows, it’s a see through vinyl decal over the windows. Ford has a Chariot route in Chicago for the Explorer/Aviator launch, honestly didn’t even know it was Ford owned.

  • avatar

    So Ford’s better idea was to run “dollar vans” like they do in the transit underserved areas of Brooklyn and Queens ? Those only work because of a loose interpretation of “license” “insurance” and “tax payment”

  • avatar

    I don’t want to ride with strangers, and neither does anybody else. If it’s significantly faster, cheaper, or more convenient, I’ll do it anyway, but there’s got to be a strong disincentive to whatever form of transportation might allow me to get to where I’m going without having to feel the warm stripe of the unwashed masses crammed up against me. In the realm of roadgoing conveyances I don’t own or have to park, cabs and Uber/Lyft/whatever allow for a better experience. If you’re gonna revolutionize transportation, a vinyl-lined Ford Transit is probably not the tool of choice.

  • avatar

    I rode Chariot to work and back regularly in San Francisco since soon after they started. It was a great alternate to public transit for getting to and from my job in the center of the financial district. There you are looking at nearly $500 a month to park your car.

    But the minute that Ford took over you knew it was doomed. It was never going to return the magnitude of profits that Ford wants in its endeavors. Chariot could have supported its employees salary wise and returned a small profit to owners, but that return was always going to be equivalent to one coin laundromat’s monthly returns for each Chariot Route’s monthly returns. You could send your kids to college, but it better be state college.

    They had low prices for the early and late commuters. Late being after 6:15 PM, about when I leave work. For my evening ride I paid $3.80, about a dollar more than a city bus.

  • avatar
    open country

    Chariot advertised heavily in my area towards the end of 2016, actually on the street outside my downtown office building. I ended up collecting multiple free ride and discount promo codes with the hopes of trying it out one day. After 2+ years, there are still only two routes in my metro area. One heads directly south (my commute is North), and another is a closed-availabilty program for a local tech company’s employees only.

    TL:DR; I would have tried this if they ever went anywhere I needed to go.

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