PHOENIX (AP) — Domino's Pizza claims that its delivery drivers cover 10 million miles a week in the U.S., and it wants them to start doing it in style.
So Domino's has teamed with Chandler niche automaker Local Motors on "The Ultimate Delivery Vehicle Challenge," a national design contest to develop a vehicle that could be manufactured at the Chandler plant for use at the pizza giant's 10,000 shops worldwide.
"This is the first-ever attempt to ask customers and fans to craft a new vehicle that would deliver pizza for Domino's," said Jay Rogers, founder of Local Motors.
Local Motors is a cutting-edge design and manufacturing facility. On a 5-acre site near Interstate 10 and Wild Horse Pass in west Chandler, Local Motors was founded in 2007 by Rogers, who was inspired by a case study he completed at Harvard Business School that demonstrated how vehicles can be manufactured more efficiently and cheaply.
This year, the company teamed with Peterbilt Motors Co. in Texas on a global competition seeking innovative designs for a classic heavy-duty truck exterior that adapted more aerodynamic and modern elements.
While that competition was opened to Local Motors' 17,000 designers and engineers, the Domino's competition also is open to its customers.
"We, as a builder of cars, are a stakeholder, and people who get pizza delivered to them are stakeholders," Rogers said.
Domino's also is no stranger to cutting-edge technology. It brought the pizza-chomping public the Heatwave Bag, the corrugated pizza box and, of course, the magnetic car topper identifying its drivers' vehicles as official Domino's toters.
But the latter could change as a result of this design competition.
"We're taking this project very seriously," said Domino's spokesman Chris Brandon. "It's not just a PR stunt. ... We've been very happy with the ways consumers have gotten involved."
The first design phase drew more than 500 submissions, and 110 were good enough to make the cut to the next level.
"I'm always stunned at what the community is capable of achieving," Rogers said. "It's humbling to see how much work was done, and how closely (the entrants) paid attention to the idea. It's so easy to say, 'I want to design a car,' but these (vehicles) had a lot of specifications."
The next phase of the competition, packaging, opens Oct. 30. The public can submit design ideas and vote on others' ideas on the website localmotors.com/dominos.
Prospective designers must consider how the vehicle can hold at least 20 pizzas in heated bags, how delivery personnel can keep cold drinks separate and how to include a place for other menu items besides pizza, Rogers said.
The vehicle must be easy to get in and out of, and it does not require a seat for a passenger. Domino's also wants the winning entry to cost less than $20,000 to build and must be able to handle all kinds of weather and road conditions.
"Delivery drivers are out on the roads in the worst conditions while consumers stay in to avoid bad weather," Rogers' website states. "The vehicle needs to be able to handle these conditions."
Not surprisingly, "Domino's branding needs to be displayed well," Rogers said. "This will be a great showpiece for them."
Indeed, his website reminds participants: "We want this to be a vehicle that Domino's drivers WANT to be seen driving, and be a vehicle that creates excitement about the Domino's brand throughout delivery neighborhoods across America.. The Ultimate Delivery Vehicle will be a rolling billboard for Domino's Pizza and instill a sense of confidence among customers that their pizza is safe on board and will always be delivered like it just came out of the oven."
The vehicle also must have an internal-combustion engine because hybrids would be too expensive for some franchisees, and servicing the vehicles is not convenient everywhere. And it can't be an electric car because there are not enough charging stations around the world.
"This will be a ubiquitous vehicle that has to be at every franchise location in the world," Rogers said.
The vehicle is being designed in a five-phase contest, with winners being named in each phase. The target date for a final prototype is spring 2013, said Brandon.
Voting has closed for the first phase, which focused on the vehicle's overall concept. Winners of the first phase have been named; they can be seen at localmotors.com.
Upcoming competition phases involve packaging and vehicle layout, interior-design sketch and rendering, surface modeling, and a "photo-realistic" rendering and animation.
More than $50,000 in cash prizes will be awarded, the biggest being $10,000 for the designer whose prototype is picked for production.
Rogers said he might manufacture the car at Local Motors. His micro-factory builds individual concept vehicles and does not operate an assembly line, but he said he could modify his business.
Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com