Domino’s fleet of Chevy Bolt EVs puts a cost-cutting spin on pizza delivery
The original Domino’s delivery vehicle was a Volkswagen Beetle that brothers Tom and James Monaghan used when they bought their first store in Ypsilanti, Mich. In a bit of Domino’s lore, Tom Monaghan bought his brother’s share of the business in exchange for the VW, then built a pizza delivery empire. The company has long pushed the envelope of pizza delivery, instituting a “30 minutes or it’s free” policy in 1979 that both fueled its growth and led to more than 20 fatalities and huge lawsuits that ended the guarantee.
Over the decades, Domino’s has tried more innovations in pizza delivery. In 2015, the company unveiled DXP (delivery expert), a modified Chevy Spark that had a pizza oven in the rear seat to keep pies warm en route to eaters. The modifications, though, added cost to vehicle purchases and only 155 DXPs were ever made.
Domino’s is currently testing driverless delivery vehicles with robotics company Nuro in Houston, and its e-bike delivery in 24 markets has led to faster times and higher team member satisfaction. Its latest move may prove prescient. By the end of 2023, Domino’s says it will have 881 Chevy Bolt EV delivery vehicles on the streets of the U.S.
There are several reasons behind the move and why it might work. EVs avoid the fallout from high gas prices, which cut into profits in 2022. They require less maintenance than their gas-powered counterparts, again saving money in the long run. The Bolt EV’s 259-mile range means a lot of pizzas can go in dense urban areas before the car needs a charge, and amid high demand GM has cut 2023 Bolt EV prices by 16-18% with the message that “affordability has always been a priority for these vehicles.” GM has declined to say what it’s charging Domino’s for the custom-branded delivery vehicles, a good chunk of which are already on the road, but they’re definitely more cost-effective than the DXP. Domino’s also thinks it might help with recruitment in a tight market, opening delivery jobs to people who have driver’s licenses but don’t own their own cars. The Bolts are also a significant step toward Domino’s net zero by 2050 commitment.
“Domino’s has always been on the cutting edge of pizza delivery, and electric delivery cars make sense as vehicle technology continues to evolve,” CEO Russell Weiner said. “This is one way we can begin reducing our environmental impact, one delivery at a time.”
To promote the launch of its new fleet, Domino’s is entering customers who place an online delivery order into a contest to win a Bolt EV of their own. Curious customers can even track how many delivery EVs Domino’s has operating in their state on a dedicated webpage.
Setting a Trend
To limit deliveries and thus gas expenses, Domino’s has been giving customers who order carryout online $3 off their next carryout order. That offer has been extended through March 26. If the new electric fleet takes off, however, Domino’s might soon be encouraging customers to stay at home and let them do the driving. The question is whether other food delivery companies will follow suit.
It seems likely, as many companies have taken to setting net zero targets for themselves, and none has been immune to high gas prices. If Domino’s can offer better prices thanks to savings elsewhere, competitors will start to feel the pressure. While many customers won’t care how their pizza got to them, there are plenty who go out of their way to make what they see as sustainable purchases. Eventually, delivery companies, whether stocking their own fleets or having drivers use their own vehicles, won’t have a choice as automakers phase out gas-powered vehicles in favor of EVs.
It certainly seems as though Domino’s is in for the long haul.
“This is one of the largest Chevy Bolt EV Commercial orders we’ve done. The purchases are ongoing,” Ed Peper, vice president of GM Fleet, told the Detroit Free Press in an email.
Franchisees will lease the Bolts for three to five years, by which point EV delivery fleets might be the norm.
“Domino’s was founded in 1960 as a delivery company, and we go to bed every night and wake up every morning saying, ‘How can we get better?’” Weiner said. “This is a way we can get better; better service for our customers and better for the environment.”
The new electric fleet seems poised to deliver on that promise.