Test Your Ford Car from an Alibaba Cat-Themed Vending Machine

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They merely visit the machine to pick up and test drive the auto of their choice, which can be done in minutes. It'll be interesting to see if the issue of avoiding salespeople and the neato vending machine will spark more purchases.

In order to push New Retail, Alibaba has partnered with a slew of auto companies including Renault and Maserati. If those testing the Ford models are satisfied, they can't just drive away with the vehicle they got from the vending machine. Users who wish to buy the auto need to put down only a 10 percent payment, and financing will be arranged through an Alibaba affiliate, notes the report.

Alibaba uses social credit (determined by factors like bill payment, commitment to elder care, and time spent video gaming) to decide who test-drives cars for free and who pays a fee.

This oversize vending machine holds 42 cars, letting you test drive and hopefully say yes to a new Ford.

"It will make buying cars as easy as buying a can of Coke", said Yu Wei, general manager of Tmall's automotive division.

They simply select a model on Alibaba's Taobao mobile app, have their face scanned by the app, and when they arrive at the machine, it will verify their identities before the vehicle is delivered. The New Retail model focuses on user experiences, he said, and access to services such as the test-drive center will provide a better understanding of particular vehicles while making auto shopping more fun and engaging.

"We are looking for ways to simplify customers' lives and give them the ultimate try-before-you-buy experience", said Dean Stoneley, vice president of marketing at Ford Asia Pacific, at a launch event. Last year, Autobahn Motors opened a 15 story auto vending machine.

Cao Zhenyu, a senior executive at Changan Ford Automobile, a Ford joint venture headquartered in Chongqing, said traditional test drives offered by dealerships are often limited by time, space and available routes.

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