Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba wants to make buying a car as easy as buying a can of Coke.
In partnership with Ford, Alibaba has unveiled a car vending machine in Guangzhou, China offering three-day test drives to potential buyers using its e-commerce retail platform, Tmall.
The ‘Super Test Drive Centre’ is part of Alibaba’s ‘new retail’ strategy, which aims to blend the on and offline worlds to create more flexible shopping experiences.
Aside from picking up and driving the test car, the entire experience plays out on the Tmall app. Users select the model they’re interested in, set a pickup time and snap a selfie so the vending machine can confirm their booking when they arrive.
The test drives are free for customers with a high credit score (calculated by Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial) while others will pay between RMB 99 ($20) and RMB 198, depending on the model.
China has been the world’s largest auto market since 2009, accounting for 30 per cent of total global car sales. However, sales growth slowed considerably last year, leading car manufacturers to try new strategies to attract and engage customers.
Ford Asia Pacific vice president of marketing Dean Stoneley said the aim of the collaboration with Tmall was to drive foot traffic to the company’s showrooms in China.
“We are looking for ways to simplify customers’ lives and give them the ultimate try-before-you-buy experience,” he said.
“It’s about having them try Ford vehicles, and ultimately buying the vehicle at a Ford dealership.”
The aim is to drive foot traffic to Ford dealerships.
The vending machine launch is the first collaboration between the Alibaba Group and Ford after they announced a partnership in December.
The companies plan to use artificial intelligence, cloud computing, the Internet of Things and e-commerce to redefine the consumer journey and user experience for automobiles.
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