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Automakers Find It’s Hard to Make Money on Mobility, Not Cars

Ford's failure to make shuttle vans catch on shows the costly challenge ahead.

A Chariot commuter shuttle in New York.
A Chariot commuter shuttle in New York.

Photographer: Thomas Urbain/AFP via Getty Images


Jim Hackett’s first job at Ford Motor Co. was to figure out ways to make money that didn’t involve selling cars. One of his first big decisions as the executive in charge of smart mobility, a catch-all term for app-driven transportation businesses, was to spend $65 million on a ride-sharing startup offering shuttle bus service.

Three years later, Hackett is Ford’s chief executive officer and that startup, Chariot, has been shut down for good.