Ford China in talks with Tmall

Ford Motor Company China may soon be selling cars through Alibaba’s Tmall and via an “auto vending-machine” concept.

The US automaker yesterday signed a three-year agreement signed with Alibaba Group to expand its footprint in China, reports The Detroit News. It is the latest partnership in a series in China in recent months, and follows a visit to Hangzhou, where Alibaba has its headquarters, by Ford CEO Jim Hackett and executive chairman Bill Ford Jr.

Last month the company announced a $756 million partnership with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co to build electric vehicles, and earlier this week Hackett and Ford announced plans to bring 50 new vehicles to market in China by 2025, and to build five new models in China.

Hackett says Ford is collaborating with technology leaders to build on its vision for smart vehicles in a smart world.

Meanwhile, the Alibaba partnership is based on the companies jointly finding new ways to sell vehicles, which could include an online component. They aim to “redefine” the retail experience and explore sustainability concepts, working together in the fields of mobility, connectivity, cloud computing, AI and digital marketing.

Their first priority is to come up with new ways for people to buy, maintain and own vehicles using the internet, computers or other technology.

The partnership will be part of Ford’s efforts to overhaul its China strategy to revive the growth momentum it has lost in recent months, Reuters reports. The agreement could mean that cars bought online are delivered to buyers by franchised Ford retail stores, which would maintain and repair the vehicles.

Ford could also use Tmall’s new retail concept, the “Automotive Vending Machine”, a multi-storey parking garage that partly resembles a giant vending machine. Alibaba says buyers can use their phones to browse through the cars and choose to either immediately test drive or buy a vehicle, which would be delivered to them on the ground floor.

Shoppers with good credit would be able to drive away after a 10 per cent down payment, then make monthly payments through Alibaba’s affiliate Alipay.

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