Alibaba was already making a push to expand its offline retail presence, and now it is taking its efforts a notch up, by planning to sell cars. Buying a car involves a process, where you visit a showroom, take a test ride, and then make a decision. However, the Chinese company is all set to revolutionize the way you buy a car.
Cat-shaped car vending machine
Last week, Alibaba promised to help Ford to sell cars in China. At the time, there were some talks of the new proposed models to sell, but details were scant. However, on Wednesday, the company shared more details, saying it will open massive cat-shaped car vending machines to streamline and enrich the car buying experience.
Alibaba revealed plans to open two such car vending machines in Nanjing and Shanghai. Alibaba’s cat-shaped car vending machines will allow prospective buyers to choose a car, take a test-drive and also buy on-site.
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Detailing the process (via a video) of buying a car with this model, Alibaba says a customer first needs to scan a car that they are interested in buying, using Alibaba’s Taobao app. After the system identifies the vehicle, the user is asked to select a color, fill in basic details and snap a selfie. Thereafter, a test-drive is arranged if the vehicle is available.
The prospective buyer then needs to visit the unmanned car vending machine facility, where their face will be verified (using the selfie submitted earlier) to retrieve the information and arrange the car. A user can test-drive it for three days, after which they can either buy the vehicle (via Taobao), or choose another model for a test ride. Alibaba is even offering loans to buy a car (via its financial arm – Ant Financial).
However, all users are not eligible to book a test ride. According to the company, the prospective buyer must have a score of above 700 with China’s Zhima Credit system and be an accredited Alibaba Super Member, notes CNET. Also, to lower the abuse of the system, a user is limited to one test drive of each model and a maximum of five test drives in the first two months of the program.
Support from auto manufacturers
Alibaba plans to open more of such machines across China in the next twelve months. Several big auto manufacturers have already expressed interest in participating in this car vending machine model, including names like BMW, Audi, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Maserati.
“Our thinking behind the Car Vending Machine is focused on helping users solve certain problems they face in the car-buying process. To do that, we are building a physical, experiential store that offers staffless car pickup through facial-recognition, three-day ‘deep’ test-drives, and a one-stop-shop that displays [cars from] all mainstream brands at once,” said Huan Lu, marketing director of Tmall’s automotive division, according to CNET.
Alibaba has been into selling cars before, but it was only online. This is the first time that the company has created a physical storefront for selling cars. Also, the car vending machine is not a new concept. One such system was launched in Singapore this year.