On today’s dump we’ve got EV pizza delivery, an Amazon/Argo bombshell, Mazda trying to figure out its EV plans, and a story that combines all of that into one.
Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday
Avoid The Noid, He Eats Pizzas!
There was a Domino’s Pizza down the street from my college apartment and my roommate (shout out David!) would take advantage of a great deal wherein one human could buy three medium, one-topping pizzas for $15 and get a free two-liter of soda thrown in just for the diabetes. He basically lived on this pizza. It was disgusting, actually, but now Domino’s has eventually rolled that dough (sorry, not sorry) into a fleet of electric Chevy Bolts.
Hell yeah. I delivered pizzas in a clapped out Ford Escort and I’d have loved to be cruising in one of these babies. The Deliverator it ain’t, but it’s still pretty cool.
From the super excited press release:
Domino’s Pizza Inc., the largest pizza company in the world, is electrifying pizza delivery! More than 100 custom-branded 2023 Chevy Bolt electric vehicles are arriving at select franchise and corporate stores throughout the U.S. this month, with an additional 700 rolling out in the coming months, making it the largest electric pizza delivery fleet in the country. To see an interactive map of how many Domino’s Chevy Bolt EVs are currently in each state and how many are coming soon, visit dominos.com/evfleet.
Dawg, they even have a website. Here’s some more explanation of why:
Electric vehicles provide several advantages for Domino’s stores, including ample battery life with the potential to have days of deliveries, zero tailpipe emissions, advanced safety features and lower average maintenance costs than nonelectric vehicles – all without the financial impact of high gas prices. Electric fleet vehicles also provide more opportunity to attract delivery drivers who don’t have a car of their own. Today, Domino’s already delivers with electric bikes and/or scooters in 24 international markets, including the U.S.
I love this.
Here’s a bonus photo in case you cannot use your imagination to comprehend what this would look like.
How Amazon Contributed To Crashing Argo’s Self Driving Business
The collapse of Ford/VW-backed Argo AI felt sudden to those on the outside, but details are emerging to explain how the once $7+ billion self-driving business slowly fell apart. The obvious answer as to why this happened, based on Ford’s multi-billion dollar write-down, is that it cost a ton of money and didn’t make any money. It’s a little more complex than that, of course.
Ford and Volkswagen did persuade Lyft to come along as a partner in 2021, but sources have made clear that the deal was a small slice of the company in exchange for data, and no cash changed hands. This explains why, allegedly, Ford and VW made a play to get Amazon to pour some cash into Argo.
According to this report from Bloomberg, Amazon ran a few test routes in Miami with Argo Ford Fusions and was on the verge of putting in hundreds of millions of dollars after a visit from then-Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess. So what happened?
[B]y spring, Ford and VW still hadn’t agreed to terms on sharing Argo with Amazon. Ford would eventually acquiesce. VW remained wary that Amazon — with a reputation for dominating partnerships — would draw talent and resources away from the German automaker’s ambitious self-driving strategy, according to the people.
At about that time, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine further destabilized a global economy dealing with supply-chain issues and, in the US, the highest inflation in 40 years. Suddenly, spending billions on a still-unproven technology didn’t look like a such a good bet.
And then key players involved in the deal began departing their companies. At Amazon, the mergers and acquisitions executive championing the deal and working directly with Argo left. Around the same time, Dave Clark, CEO of Amazon’s consumer business, also exited.
And then, of course, Diess got shitcanned. There’s a lot more in the report and it’s worth reading in full as there’s a ton of good intel.
There’s a cautionary tale in here for anyone hoping to make money off of unproven technology still in its infancy. The company was created in the hopes of luring an automaker and that’s what happened with Ford buying in immediately. After dumping money into the company Ford persuaded Volkswagen to jump in as well. Eventually, Volkswagen tried to cajole Amazon into investing before they passed. Amazon seems like the smart party here.
Mazda Maybe Has A Plan For EVs, Maybe
Mazda is the car company all car journalists want to succeed because it seems like it spend that extra 5% of time and energy developing cars that don’t feel completely boring. I am a sucker for this as well. What do they spend the rest of their time doing? Making cars and chasing powertrain solutions in seemingly random patterns.
Remember the rotary? Rotaries are awesome and a key part of who Mazda is and, of course, the company doesn’t make them anymore because they are not particularly practical in most applications. Remember when Mazda was huge on diesels? It went as far as getting them certified here just in time for Volkswagen to ruin the diesel market. Mazda killed that program. Remember Skyactiv-X? Where’s that in the U.S.?
Electric cars? Mazda’s offering is an expensive and small EV that only gets 100 miles of range. You only need 100 miles of range most of the time, of course, but when everyone is offering double the range it’s just a bad look.
It seems like this is starting to change as Mazda’s CEO announced an $11 billion investment to electrify the company’s lineup by 2030. According to this MarketWatch story, they even have a battery partner:
Along the road to 2030, factors such as regulations and charging and energy infrastructure are likely to remain uncertain, Mr. Marumoto said. “Being able to flexibly respond based on customer needs and infrastructure is the path I believe we should take.”
Mazda said Tuesday that it has reached an agreement with battery maker Envision AESC to procure batteries for EVs produced in Japan.
I want them to succeed because, again, I’m a sucker for Mazda and I bet the company will eventually make a good EV. [Editor’s Note: I think it’s going to be challenging for Mazda to stand out in the EV space as it has in the ICE space. Mazda’s appeal today is largely based on driving dynamics and fun — a good stickshift and a lightweight, well-balanced chassis. Well, the stick is gone in an EV, and the weight is all down low between the axles like it is on all EVs. There are still plenty of knobs to turn (chassis tuning, design, interior quality), but it’s not going to be easy to maintain that driver-focused edge. This is a potential challenge that’s not specific to Mazda, of course, as there are other automakers whose “edge” revolved around ICE-related attributes. -DT]
Brightdrop Should Make $1 Billion This Year
Ok, let’s combine all the stories above into one story. This tale of success has everything: electric cars, delivery vehicles, Teddy Graham people, and a big automaker investment.
Brightdrop, the General Motors-backed delivery company, is on track to make $1 billion this year. From a company press release:
The revenue news comes ahead of the company’s two year anniversary and just 11 months after breaking the record for the fastest vehicle to market in GM’s history. Some of the most notable tech and consumer brands took over five years to reach the $1 billion milestone, however BrightDrop will be joining the billion-dollar league in less than three years — demonstrating the company’s strategy, vision, tech expertise and commitment to the market.
BrightDrop has received over 25,000 reservations and letters of intent from some of the world’s largest companies including Walmart, Hertz, FedEx and Verizon — and already has vehicles on the road making deliveries today. In September, the company unveiled Trace Grocery, an eCart designed to improve online grocery fulfillment, and announced Kroger as the first company slated to take delivery of the units.
It’s not as sexy as fancy autonomous driving, but the last-mile problem for delivery is still a problem and electric vehicles make a lot of sense as a solution.
What is the perfect pizza delivery vehicle? You have to do better than a 1994 Ford Escort.