ANN ARBOR, Michigan – Until the drones come, a Local Motors crowd source-designed, Roush-modified 2015 Chevrolet Spark is all the delivery vehicle Domino’s Pizza needs. The pizza franchise monolith known more for its obsession with home delivery within 30 minutes than for its cuisine hired retired General Motors research and development executive Ken Baker (he worked on the EV-1 electric car) to develop the one-seat, 80-pizza Domino’s DXP. The name refers to “delivery expert,” Domino’s name for the teenagers and college students who normally deliver your 16-inch pizza and Cheesy Bread in clapped-out Pontiac Grand Ams and Mitsubishi Galants.
“We pursued this for the last four years and spent several million dollars to bring this to market,” says Domino’s president Russell Weiner, who unveiled the DXP at the company’s headquarters during a meeting of the Detroit Automotive Press Association. The company has been running a series of television commercials in the past few years in which delivery experts are encouraged to contribute to a bespoke pizzamobile design.
Roush Enterprises has built 96 such 2015 Chevy Sparks for Domino’s experiment in reliable pie transport and rolling billboard advertising. They’re equipped with the standard 1.2-liter inline four and CVT. Domino’s rejected the battery-electric option because each car will run up about 100,000 miles in just three years – they’ll be in-service too regularly to wait for recharging.
The front passenger and rear seat have been removed, the front passenger airbag has been disabled and a soda/napkin holder is in place of the seat, the rear driver-side door is bolted shut and a metal panel where that door’s window would be opens for access, via keyfob, to an oven that heats to 140 degrees and can carry up to six pies. A special flat load floor can carry Heatwave bags for up to 74 more pizzas, plus other menu items including salads and two-liter soda bottles.
Most importantly, there’s all sorts of advertising all over the car, including the New York cab-style roof sign that lights up with the inscription, “out for delivery.” The Domino’s name replaces the Chevy bowtie on the grille and there are Domino’s logos galore, including the center caps of the wheels. When the driver – er, “delivery expert” – opens the door, a puddle light projects the blue and red logo. The only Chevy badge that remains is on the steering wheel.
Roush adds 176 new components and 30 special types of metal forms, a transformation that required 56 validation tests. And here’s the rub: Chevrolet is launching a new Spark for the 2016 model year, so if Domino’s franchisees demand more DXPs beyond the 96 ’15 models built, some re-engineering will have to take place.
“The exterior door forms are different,” ex-GM R&D chief Baker notes about the ’16 model, referring to the special panel that opens up to the oven. Much of the DXP’s bespoke interior modifications can carry over, however.
Domino’s will deliver the 96 examples of the 2015 DXP already built to franchisees in 25 U.S. locations, including the Boston, Detroit, San Diego, San Francisco, Houston, Dallas, and Portland, Oregon and Fargo, North Dakota, metropolitan areas for about $20,000 to $25,000 each. If this experiment is successful and Domino’s chooses to adapt the ’16 Spark, they can be sold to up to 12,100 franchisees around the world – the new Spark also will be built with right-hand-drive.
The DXPs benefit from full Chevrolet Spark warranty coverage, and Roush has trained dealers in the 25 launch cities to service the special pizza-centric equipment.
One franchisee already on-board is Dave Cesarini, who bought three DXPs for his four Ann Arbor-area stores. Normally, his drivers are paid per-mile for their pizza deliveries. Driving the DXPs, for them, will be “a privilege,” he says. But why did he buy three pizzamobiles?
“I’m a pizza geek,” he says. “It’s a fun thing to have.”