Ford Partners With Alibaba To Vend Cars In China

Posted On: 12/22/2017

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SHANGHAI -- Online retail giant Alibaba has signed a deal to sell Ford's electric vehicles in China using gigantic vending machines.

Shoppers scan the vehicle they're interested in purchasing, using Alibaba's Taobao app. They then pick a color and other customized options. Next, they snap a selfie that is used to match them with their order. The system then arranges for a test drive of the car, using facial recognition as a way to unlock access to the vending machine.

The multi-floor vending machine rotates the cars in stock until the one the customer selected is found.  Alibaba customers pay a deposit and are given three days to test the vehicle to determine whether they want to purchase it. Once they decide, they can use the smartphone app to pay for the car or to return it and arrange another test drive.

Customers are limited to five test periods every two months. They also must qualify as Alibaba Super Members, and have reached a certain level on the company's credit scoring service.

Alibaba plans to open two facilities in January 2018 in Shanghai and Nanjing, followed by dozens more across China next year if the concept proves a success.