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Automobile vending machine opens in China

Chinese consumers can now order a car for a test-drive via app and pick it up at an unmanned vending machine, thanks to a partnership between Alibaba’s Tmall and Ford.

Launching in Guangzhou on Tuesday, the Super Test-Drive Center offers more than 100 Ford cars, which consumers can take for a three-day test drive before they decide to make a purchase.

After signing up through the Tmall or Taobao mobile app, consumers can select a vehicle, snap a selfie to ensure they are the only person who can take the car from the centre, put down a deposit electronically and schedule pick-up time – all from within the app.

When they arrive at the unmanned vending machine, they verify their identity with the their selfie and the vehicle they selected is delivered from the multi-story car dispensary to the ground floor, where the test drive begins. The whole visit lasts no more than 10 minutes.

Ford models available for test-drive include the Explorer SUV, Mustang and Escort.

Each consumer can test-drive two vehicles during the initiative, which runs to 23 April, provided they are different models. If they decide to purchase a car, they can visit one of Ford’s offline 4S stores to pay the remaining balance after paying the deposit on Tmall.

Buyers may be eligible for discounts and other incentives based on their user activity and history with the Alibaba ecosystem.

Gu Wanguo, general manager of vehicles at Tmall Auto, said this concept is an important step in Alibaba’s New Retail push.

“By leveraging Alibaba’s data intelligence and technologies, the auto vending machine and super drive test services can enable auto brand owners and distributors better serve their customers,” Gu said.

“Consumers can use the internet to access more accurate, convenient services and get a deeper understanding into particular vehicles. 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.”

Alibaba has revealed plans to build similar automobile vending machines in Beijing and Hangzhou.

In December last year, the e-commerce giant inked an agreement with Ford Motor to explore ways to leverage mobility and redefine the automotive ownership experience in China.


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