Markets

Ford Looks for Alibaba Magic in New China Tie-Up

Ford Looks for Alibaba Magic in New China Tie-Up

Under the agreement, Ford will be working with four of Alibaba's business units-operating-system developer AliOS, cloud-computing platform Alibaba Cloud, digital-marketing arm Alimama and B2C shopping site Tmall-to identify opportunities in these areas as well as artificial intelligence, infotainment and the Internet-of-Things (IoT).

Ford could also use Tmall's new retail concept called the "Automotive Vending Machine" - a multi-storey parking garage - to sell directly to consumers. Ford's chairman and CEO are expected to sign the arrangement on Thursday.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett and Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang were on hand for the signing of the Letter of Intent between their respective companies.

Ford Credit did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Those cars could come directly from Ford or from its dealers but the details were still to be worked out.

Alibaba says that consumers can use their phones to browse the cars in the garage, before choosing to either test drive it or buy immediately. The vehicle would then be delivered to the ground floor automatically.

College Football Playoff projections after Week 13 games
It will be an interesting finish to the year, and the field of four teams is sure to be hotly debated when the time comes. Ohio State or Alabama? Will Ohio State qualify for the CFP? Ohio State's resume would have better wins, but a worse loss.


Back to Fords on Tmall, the model allows shoppers with good credit to purchase a vehicle with a 10% downpayment, and then make monthly payments via Alibaba's Alipay.

"China is not only the largest auto market in the world, it's also at the heart of electric-vehicle and SUV growth and the mobility movement", Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford said at the Shanghai event.

The move, though, could be potentially problematic for dealers, some industry experts said. "Retail innovation is great, but it's by nature disruptive and can't keep everybody happy", said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight.

Direct selling by automotive brands is not always possible in many markets around the world. As of October, Ford's 2017 vehicle sales were down 5% from the same period in 2016. The ability to test drive a vehicle ordered online could change that.

Ford is a relatively small player in China and has been focusing on expanding into the market to better compete globally.

China is the world's largest auto market, with about 23 million vehicles sold in the first 10 months of the year.


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