The Amazon of China, Alibaba, is advancing into the electric car market as it invests in EV start-up Xpeng but also reveals plans to sell electric Ford EVs through enormous vending machines like a soda pop can.
Alibaba has just inked a deal with Ford to sell their EVs made in China – offline but in an automated manner still. Alibaba plans to introduce enormous “auto vending machines” that spit out the desired model so the term is to be taken literally.
Customers will have the option to pick a color, enter their information and take a crucial selfie via the Taobao shopping app by Alibaba. They then just have to show their face, again literally, at the vending machine and the EV pops out.
They then have three days to test the vehicle in order to decide if they take to the smartphone app to pay for it, or to arrange to return the car and schedule another test drive. Customers are limited to five test periods every two months to ensure the system isn’t used as a free car hire service.
Alibaba plans to open two facilities at the beginning of next year, one in Shanghai and another in Nanjing. More could follow across China if the facilities prove a success.
But Ford is not the only electric car venture Alibaba has reached out to. It has also bought a 10 percent stake in Xiaopeng or Xpeng, an EV start-up from China that had recently introduced its first electric SUV, the Identy X. It uses Tesla’s open patents and their battery architecture but the cells come from Samsung and not Panasonic.
If the e-SUV will become available through Alibaba’s ‘Auto Vending Machines’ is unclear but a spokesperson said the company is looking to spin its activities in the automotive world further.