Ford & Alibaba launch auto vending machines in China automotive market

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Customers also have the option to test other cars after that. Similar vending machines are being planned in Beijing and Hangzhou.

Ford and Alibaba signed a three-year collaboration partnership last December, allowing the United States auto maker various new retail opportunities, from pre-sales, test drives and leasing options, through Tmall. Ford and Alibaba built this vending machine for cars that you can try before you buy.

In a break from tradition, buyers get a three-day trial period before having to commit to a purchase.

If after that period you like it (and your credit score is high enough) you'll be allowed to buy the vehicle using one of Alibaba's approved financing programs. But Alibaba Super Members, or customers with a Zhima Credit score over 700, get their rides for free. The customer also needs to snap a selfie with the mobile app, which is used to confirm his or her booking at the test-drive centre.

"It will make buying cars as easy as buying a can of Coke", said Yu Wei, general manager of Tmall's automotive division.

Alibaba has introduced a vehicle vending machine on Tmall, its online marketplace application, which allows consumers in China to choose from 100 Ford cars for a test drive.

Once booked, customers take a selfie so that facial recognition technology can identify them on arrival at the auto vending machine.

Wanguo added: "Consumers can use the internet to access more accurate, convenient services and get a deeper understanding into particular vehicles".

For customers of the auto vending machine, nearly the entire car-buying process happens on their smartphones, through Alibaba's e-commerce apps. While sales growth last year slowed considerably to 3% year-on-year from the 13.6% seen in 2016, carmakers in the USA and Europe have been shifting strategies to attract consumers in a country that still accounts for 30% of total global vehicle sales.

In 2016, Alibaba sold 100 Maserati cars in 18 seconds during a flash sale on Tmall. Incidentally, the company had recently made it to the headlines for its plan to construct a seven-storied vehicle vending machine in Chesterfield.