Vans Deliver Profitability for Ford
DoorDash's Secret AI, Sweetgreen's savory Q2, Refraction AI shares plans
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Ford Vans Deliver Profitability
DoorDash Planning AI Chatbot
Chart Time | Sweetgreen Hones in on Profitability
Refraction AI’s Robotic Ambitions
VEHICLES | Commercial Vans Power Strong Q2 for Ford
Automaker Ford reported a strong Q2, with Revenue up 12% YoY to $45 billion, and income rising to $1.9B. Ford Pro — its commercial segment — showed particularly strong results, with 22% revenue growth and a doubling of EBIT to $2.4B. Additional strength in software and repair services is pushing the company to project free cash flow of $6.5-7B for the entire year.
The Big Picture: While Dearborn’s push into EVs has garnered attention, that segmented managed to lose $1.08B despite increasing revenue 39% YoY to $1.8 billion. And while consumer sales of gas-powered cars and trucks represent Ford’s largest source of volume by far, its commercial unit contributed more EBIT, thanks to strong 15.3% margins. So next time you see a Transit, Connect, e-Transit, or of course a work pickup out making deliveries, know that that’s what’s keeping the lights on in Michigan.
3PD | DashAI or Just Desperate?
App sleuths have discovered that DoorDash is developing an AI chatbot to help customers better find food options. While the company has yet to publicly announced DashAI, CEO Tony Xu previously stated the company is “running different experiments internally.” Example uses found in the app’s code include queries such as “Can you show me some highly rated and affordable dinner options nearby?” and “What’s a place that delivers burgers that also has really good salad options?” and “Where can I get authentic Asian food? I like Chinese and Thai.”
The Big Picture: This feels like a throwback to three months ago, when companies large and small glommed the words “Artificial Intelligence” into every announcement to show investors they were chasing the hot new thing. Instacart said it was “Bringing Inspirational, AI-Powered Search to the Instacart app with Ask Instacart.” Struggling companies put out nothing burger announcements saying things like “Nextgen Food Robotics Integrates Large Language Model (LLM) through GPT-3.5 into AI Food Ordering App, Lily” and “Helbiz Incorporates ChatGPT, OpenAI Technology” in the hopes that uttering those magic words would grant them three VC wishes. There are certainly many useful applications for AI in delivery tech, but having to type longer sentences into a search box doesn’t sound like one of them…
CHART TIME | Sweetgreen Climbing Out of the Red
LA’s tech-forward salad slinger Sweetgreen released promising Q2 results: quarterly revenue grew to a record $152.5M (up 22% YoY) while net losses trimmed to -$27.3 million. Still, results fell a bit short of analysts’ estimates. Total digital revenue stood at 59% for the technology darling, which garnered praise a month ago for the launch of its “Infinite Kitchen” robotic makeline. As the company closes in on profitability, it shows the upside of going all-in on digital presence and first party apps when it comes to pickup and delivery (oh and charging $17 for some kale and quinoa doesn’t hurt either.)
AUTOMATION | Refraction AI Shares Vision, Chick-fil-A Partnership Details
In the race for robotic deliveries, any startup with hardware that doesn’t look like a small cooler on wheels is bound to stand out. That’s why Refraction AI, with its unique three-wheeled, motorcycle-esque delivery bot, garners a closer look. CEO Luke Johnson shares how the company landed marquee partners like Chick-fil-A, and how it’s seeking growth, four years after its public debut.
The Big Picture: The PDD industry is experiencing a moment similar to what scooters saw a few years back — a field with too many competitors undifferentiated by anything except brand color is slimming down as weaker players drop out or merge. One big difference is that some delivery bot startups are now profitable on a per-order basis, something micromobility companies are still struggling to achieve. As Refraction has only raised a fraction of some of its competitors’ war chests, don’t be surprised if a larger player gobbles it up for access to that Chick-fil-A contract.
A Few Good Links
Walmart turns Associates into Drivers. Signature Systems launches third party fulfillment software. Yellow looks to offload brokerage. Kroger launches self-checkout-only store in TN. Finally some good news for AV trucking: Kodiak Robotics pilots pre-approved roadside inspections in Texas. Chick-fil-A prototypes two-story drive-thru and pickup-only stores. ButcherBox pushes online meat sales to $550 million. Delivery Hero launches new ordering, payment and engagement tools for foodpanda and TabSquare brands.
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