By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — A gas-powered car – not a battery-packed electric one – has taken the inside track in Domino’s “Ultimate Delivery Vehicle” competition.
Terry McAuliffe’s GreenTech Automotive last year rolled out a neighborhood electric vehicle wrapped with the pizza company’s logo.
At the time, GreenTech said it expected at least 20 Domino’s franchise owners to place orders for its MyCar.
“We’ve got to get 10,000 built over the next year,” McAuliffe, then GTA’s chairman, told Bloomberg News. “If we can get up to 10,000 the first year, that’s a big deal.”
Meantime, Domino’s Pizza Inc. partnered with Arizona-based Local Motors to stage a competition for the design of an exclusive new delivery vehicle that could be used nationwide. And it’s not going electric.
“We’re going for an iconic look – like their brand,” Local Motors spokeswoman Amy Romano said of Domino’s. “Why not custom-build a vehicle like UPS or the Postal Service does?”
Though the competition produced unique designs, the chosen vehicle platform is based on the gas-powered version of the Chevy Spark, whose mileage is rated at a combined 34 mpg by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Domino’s corporate spokesman Chris Brandon said Local Motors was “a good fit for us because of their expertise with community-based design. We’re in process of assessing designs and seeing where it goes.”
Brandon could not confirm GreenTech’s earlier claim of 20 franchise buyers for MyCar. He knew of only one prospective GTA customer – a franchisee based in Southaven, Miss., less than five miles from GreenTech’s temporary assembly facility in Horn Lake.
Diane Barrentine, who operates 12 Domino’s stores in the region that includes the University of Mississippi, said she made a “verbal commitment” to purchase “one or two” MyCars from GTA.
Barrentine said she test-drove a MyCar and compared it favorably with Mercedes Benz’s gas-powered (and faster) Smart Car. She said the 18-mph speed limit on the Ole Miss campus makes the electric MyCar, which tops out at 25 mph, a natural.
“College students like ‘green,’” she observed.
“We’ll place our order by summer and take delivery in the fall,” Barrentine told Watchdog. She expects the car’s price to be “below $20,000.”
Neither McAuliffe nor Marianne McInerney, GTA’s vice president for sales and marketing, returned phone calls seeking comment.
Local Motors said the competition prototypes were designed in just six months and await the green light from Domino’s for the next step.
“There is still some work to be done to integrate all winning elements into a single final concept ready for engineering,” Romano said.
Romano said Local Motors, Domino’s and the delivery-car designers agreed that the conventional gas-powered version of the Spark would be better than an electric vehicle. They cited broader availability and longer driving range, which Romano said was especially important for rural franchises.
Though the conventional Chevy Spark retails for $12,185, Brandon said no price has been set for the Domino’s delivery vehicle. GM says the electric version of the 2014 Spark will cost around $25,000 after a $7,500 federal income tax credit.
Brandon stressed that the Local Motors collaboration with Domino’s is “completely separate” from GreenTech. “This is a national competition,” he said.
Whichever way the pizza maker and its franchisees go, auto blogger and New York Times contributor Jim Motavalli is skeptical about GreenTech’s ability to deliver amidst McAuliffe’s second run for Virginia governor.
“I haven’t seen too many MyCars on the road. None, actually,” Motavalli wrote this month.
“The little MyCar was supposed to launch McAuliffe’s bid for higher office with a clean-tech gleam, but it sure isn’t playing out that way.”
GreenTech sued Watchdog for $85 million this month, alleging that its reporting on the company defamed the firm and damaged relations with prospective investors.
Kenric Ward is a national reporter for Watchdog.org and chief of the Virginia Bureau. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (571) 319-9824. @Kenricward
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