U.S. car company Ford Motor Co. (F) and Alibaba Group (BABA), the leading Chinese e-commerce company, are reportedly gearing up to ink a deal for the automaker to test online sales of cars in China.

According to a report in Reuters, citing a source familiar with the matter, the deal could be announced later this week and would result in Ford selling its vehicles via Tmall, Alibaba’s retail unit, and through a new auto vending machine Alibaba is working on.

In the summer, Yu Wei, the general manager of the automotive division on Alibaba’s Tmall e-commerce platform, told the Financial Times that as soon as next year users will be able to shop for new cars on their mobile devices and pick them up from a massive vertical vending machine. At the time, Wei said purchasing a car via the internet has arrived in the automotive industry and that its vending machine will make purchasing a car as easy as buying a can of Coke. With the service, consumers who have good credit from Alibaba’s Sesame Credit will be required to put 10% down for their new vehicle and make monthly payments via its Alipay digital payment service. (See also: Alibaba to Sell Cars Via Vending Machines.)

Flash Sales and Internet Inventory

According to Reuters, a deal between Ford and Alibaba would give the carmaker a way to boost its growth and position it to be out in front of an emerging marketplace in China where people buy and sell vehicles online. After all, consumers in China are already comfortable purchasing cars over the internet. Fiat-Chrysler-owned Maserati sold 100 vehicles in only 18 seconds during a Tmall flash sale earlier this year while Alfa Romeo, the Italian car company, ran a similar sale and sold 350 Giulia Milano cars in 33 seconds, reported the FT, citing data from Alibaba. For the last 10 years, China has been the largest auto market, with car sales totaling 28 million in 2016. (See also: Tesla Triples Sales in China.)

This wouldn’t be the first partnership Ford forged with a Chinese company this year. This summer it inked a partnership with China’s Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. to make electric cars. Under the deal the two would start a new company that would sell electric cars under a local brand instead of the Ford name. The partnership is expected to help Ford boost its China sales, which are  down 7% in 2017.  The company is targeting having 70% of its models in China electric by 2025.


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