Tmall and Ford launch a huge vending machine that dispenses cars

auto vending machine
Image credit: Alibaba

Alibaba’s Tmall has unveiled its first “super test-drive center” in Guangzhou that is, in effect, a giant vending machine that dispenses Ford vehicles for test drives.

Under a limited promotion, consumers can sign up on the Tmall or Taobao mobile app, select one of over 100 Ford cars via the app, pick up the selected car through an unmanned car vending machine in the test-drive center, and test-drive it for three days before they decide to purchase the car.

Once a vehicle is chosen, consumers snap a selfie to ensure they are only person who can take the car from the center, pay a deposit electronically and schedule a pick-up time – all from within the app.

When customers arrive at the “vending machine” site, customers verify their identity with their selfie, and the vehicle they selected is delivered from the multi-story car dispensary to the ground floor. Alibaba says the pick-up process lasts no more than ten minutes.

Like so.

If the customer doesn’t like the car, they can try another, provided it’s a different model. The app only allows for two consecutive test drives. If they decide to buy the car, they can visit any brick-and-mortar Ford 4S store to pay the remaining balance.

Alibaba also said discounts and other incentives will also be provided to potential buyers based on consumer insights derived from user activity and history with the Alibaba ecosystem.

Gu Wanguo, GM of vehicles at Tmall Auto, said the ‘auto vending machine’ is an important step in Alibaba’s ‘New Retail’ push.

“Consumers can use the internet to access more accurate, convenient services and get a deeper understanding into particular vehicles,” Gu said. “In the meantime, we are opening our car vending machine’s infrastructure to the entire industry to leverage and enable their distributors, in hopes of helping upgrade the automotive sector as a whole.”

In December last year, Alibaba inked an agreement with Ford Motor to explore ways to “leverage mobility and redefine the automotive ownership experience in China”.

Alibaba also revealed plans to build similar car vending machines in Beijing and Hangzhou, while continue exploring collaboration opportunities with Ford in cloud computing, digital marketing, as well as in-car operating systems with AliOS, Alibaba’s IoT operating-system developer.

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