Would you buy a car from a vending machine?

Alibaba's newest car vending machine
Alibaba's newest car vending machine. Photo: Supplied

Last year, Alibaba and Ford announced that they were teaming up to create and redefine new ways to purchase a motor vehicle. Their goal was to enter China’s electric vehicle market by opening fully-automated car vending machines. Yes, vending machines are no longer just a place sell expensive soda drinks and miniature chips bags. It seems that now, they offer cars as well.

It was announced that the companies will reveal their two car vending machines in January 2018 in Shanghai and Nanjing. The concept was based on the idea that cars can be bought online, without any human interaction.

The similar method was already used in Singapore and by an online dealer i the US, however it seems that Alibaba and Ford are on the mission to completely change the car industry and the sales process itself, as salespersons will practically no longer be needed.

Alibaba’s car vending machine is completely high-tech

Well, it seems that both companies kept their promises, as last week, they have tested the new car vending machine located in Guangzhou, China. The massive machine was turned on, offering a three-day test drive for a wide range of 42 vehicles. The high-tech garage is full of Ford vehicles and design to support rotating platforms. The cars are delivered to ground level within a couple of minutes from user’s request and a person can test up to up to two vehicles consecutively.

Surprisingly, no matter how complex the idea of buying a car through a vending machine looks, the process seems quite easy. Simply snap a photo of a car that you like through Taobao app and add your vital info and selfie to arrange a test drive. Then, visit the vending machine, better known as the Tmall Auto Facility and use the facial recognition to verify your identity.

The car you selected will be delivered to you for a three-day test drive, with an option to keep the vehicle if you like it, by making your purchase through your phone.

Vending machines will offer more variety than dealerships

The system is automated and there is no human interaction. So for example, if you wish to test out a new Ford Mustang, a simple selfie is enough to pass the face recognition authorisation technology. This way, if something goes wrong with the car or you don’t return it on time, the authorities can easily identify you.

Although the Guangzhou machine is predominately stocked with Ford-branded vehicles, Car vending machines will offer a variety of different vehicle brands. The goal is to make the car-buying process more satisfactory by simplifying the buying process.

Ford and Alibaba want users to easily choose their vehicle from an easily accessible range that offers all mainstream brands at one place.

Car vending machines are changing the car sales process

As compelling and interesting this new car buying method is, unfortunately, it won’t be available to everyone. Alibaba’s new vending machine is currently available to members only. To use the high-tech car vending machine, you need to be a Super Member, scoring over 1,000 points in Alibaba’s 88 Membership program. In addition, you also need to have a decent credit score at Alibaba’s Zhima Credit system.

Buying a car used to be a special process in our lives. From high-school days, people would start dreaming about owning their personal vehicle and work through their career to save enough money for that special car.

Nothing beats the happiness when you see your new car with a big bow just waiting for you at the dealer. That feeling of driving away in your new four-wheeled buddy is always exciting. Well, times are changing and soon buying a car will be the same as buying a bottle of water at the service station – quick, easy and insignificant.  

Similar car vending machines do exist in San Antonio, Texas where online retailer Carvana is offering 30 cars in one of their stations, and luxury brand vehicles like Porsche, Lamborghini and Ferrari can be bought from the 15-story luxury machine in Singapore. However,  as Alibaba is known for it’s enormous online and sales success, many believe that their concept will definitely change the car selling process and bring more automated car vending machines to the market.