Alibaba and Ford make splash with auto vending machine

Buying a new vehicle becomes (almost) as easy as buying a refreshing beverage in China.

Alibaba and Ford have built a multi-storey auto vending machine in Guangzhou for consumers to test drive cars using their Tmall or Taobao logins.

This 'Super Test-Drive Center' is exclusively offering Ford models such as the Explorer, Mustang and Escort. Taobao and Tmall users can choose the car they'd like to try, put down a deposit and schedule a pickup time using their mobile apps. Collection is done by facial ID, and each consumer can test out two models.

Alibaba promises that the whole collection process will not take longer than 10 minutes. Consumers who want to purchase the car after the test-drive can pay the remaining balance at Ford's offline stores. Discounts will be given to buyers based on their credit score within the Alibaba ecosystem.

The plan for the auto vending machine was first announced last August after the Chinese ecommerce giant made its big push towards the 'new retail' concept in other sectors, including grocery and furniture retail. Alibaba inked an agreement with the US carmaker last December to introduce mobile automotive ownership experiences in China.

Still, a luxury used car dealer in Singapore beat Alibaba to the idea with a similiar high-tech multi-storey showroom, launched last year. Toyota took a more practical approach as it tries to grapple with dwindling car ownership, launching a car-sharing cafe in Tokyo.

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