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‘Easy as buying a can of Coke’ – Alibaba unveils ‘vending machine’ for Ford

Alibaba and Ford have revealed the first fruits of their recent partnership with a multi-storey car ‘vending machine’ that allows certain consumers to drive away in a matter of minutes.

Forming part of Alibaba’s “new automotive retail model”, the machine allows Tmall shoppers with “good credit scores” to purchase a new ride in only five minutes or take it for a three-day test drive.

The unstaffed vending machine in Guangzhou, China, follows a landmark deal signed by Chinese e-commerce giant and the American car manufacturer back in December.

Although car vending machines are nothing new to Asia, with a luxury equivalent launching in Singapore last year, the installation marks a major step towards bridging online-to-offline retail in the automotive industry.

The process works by Tmall users choosing a Ford model and booking a ‘Super Test-Drive’. They then take a selfie with the app, which is used to confirm their booking at the test-drive centre.

If satisfied with the car, consumers with credit scores of 750 or above with Alibaba’s Sesame scheme – first time users start with 550 points – can pay a 10 percent initial fee and drive off.  The rest is then paid in monthly instalments.

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

The company has not revealed the payment scheme for users with a lower credit score.

Alibaba claimed 1,500, or five percent, of the 30,000 cars sold on Tmall within the first three days of the new payment model’s launch were purchased by consumers using the system.

Further vending machines are set to be unveiled in Beijing and Hangzhou.

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