Reports indicate that Alibaba and Ford are on the verge of inking an agreement which will see the Dearborn, Michigan-based carmaker start selling cars online in China via the leading e-commerce platform in the world’s second-biggest economy. According to sources Ford vehicles will soon be sold on Tmall, the retail unit of Alibaba, as well as via an auto vending machine that the Chinese online retailer is developing.
A few months ago Tmall’s automotive division general manager, Yu Wei, disclosed in a newspaper interview that beginning in 2018 shoppers will have the ability of shopping for new motor vehicles on their smartphones before picking their order from a vertical vending machine. According to Wei, online buying of cars was set to go mainstream and was bound to become as easy as purchasing regular fast-moving consumer goods.
Payments via Alipay
After browsing and selecting their car of choice customers possessing a good credit rating will then make a 10% down payment and drive off. Monthly payments will then be remitted through Alipay, a digital payment service from Alibaba.
Ford’s deal with Alibaba is expected to boost the fortunes of the Dearborn, Michigan-based car maker in China where buying and selling of motor vehicles online has already taken root. During a flash sale conducted earlier in the year by Maserati, a brand owned by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, sold cars numbering 100 in just 18 seconds. Italian car maker Alfa Romeo also participated in a flash sale on Tmall and managed to sell Giulia Milano vehicles numbering 350 in just 33 seconds. The last decade has seen China emerge as the biggest car market in the world. Last year the number of cars sold in the world’s most populous country was 28 million.
Ford’s imminent deal with Alibaba coincides with an announcement by the second-biggest car maker in the United States that it will move the production of electric cars to Mexico in the future. According to Ford this will lead to the freeing up of production space in its facility in Flat Rock in the state of Michigan allowing it to produce it first driverless car. The autonomous car will be a hybrid which can operate for 20 hours.
“You’re starting to see the foundation of Ford’s bet on A-V’s (autonomous-drive vehicles). We’re very excited about what we are doing,” Ford’s global markets president, Jim Farley, said.
Ford has indicated that its Flat Rock plant will become the car maker’s center for the development and production of autonomous vehicles.