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In China, shoppers can now buy a car from a vending machine, via their mobile phone

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Shoppers in China can now buy a new car from a vending machine.

Tmall has opened a Super Test-Drive Centre in the Chinese city of Guangzhou where drivers can choose one of 100 Ford cars available to buy. The centre will be in operation until April 23.

Buyers use the centre by signing up on the Tmall or Taobao mobile app and picking up the car from a car vending machine in the centre in an experience that promises to take no more than 10 minutes. They can choose from Ford cars including its Explorer SUV, Mustang and Escort, and then get a three-day test drive before they decide whether to buy.

Sign up is done completely via mobile, and once they have chosen a vehicle, the buyer then takes a selfie to ensure they are the only person who can take the car from the centre, put down a deposit electronically and schedule a pick-up time, all from within the app. They then use that selfie to identify themselves and the car they have chosen is delivered to the ground floor of the “car dispensary” for their test drive to begin.

If they don’t like the car they initially chose they can try another, up to a limit of two. If they decide to make the purchase after the test drive, they can visit Ford’s offline 4S stores to pay the remaining balance after paying the deposit on Tmall.

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, general manager of vehicles at Tmall Auto, said the auto vending machine 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 added.

“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.”

The partnership on the new Tmall Super Test-Drive Center is a key step in an agreement between Alibaba and Ford Motor to redefine the automotive experience. It aims to integrates the best of the online and physical worlds for Chinese consumers.

Alibaba also plans to build similar auto 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.

Here’s a YouTube video of how it works.

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