SAN FRANCISCO Ford Motor Co said on Friday it would acquire San Francisco-based shuttle service Chariot with plans to expand the service globally, as the carmaker expands beyond auto manufacturing and takes another step toward becoming 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 worldwide on transportation, is trying to diversify into other modes of transportation from vehicles sold to consumers as new competitors from Alphabet's Google to Uber are shaking up the traditional automotive industry.
The bet on mobility in congested, urban zones helps protect traditional carmakers as the advent of autonomous vehicles and the 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 in partnership with the company Motivate, helping to add new stations and up to 7,000 bikes throughout the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of 2018.
Motivate currently operates the existing urban bike system called Bay Area Bike Share, launched in 2013.
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.
Ford on Thursday lowered its 2016 adjusted pre-tax profit forecast to $10.2 billion from the at least $10.8 billion it forecast in July because of a $640 million charge for an expanded vehicle recall.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe, G Crosse)