Those shopping for a new car in Guangzhou, China, now have an interesting new option for the process.
Instead of going to a car lot and talking to a salesmen, they will be able to use a smartphone app and a “car vending machine” that Alibaba and Ford are jointly piloting as part of an agreement that the firms inked two years ago.
The machine is called the Super Test-Drive Center, and it is a one-stop shopping location for dozens of Ford vehicles stored in a multi-story glass building. The potential buyer can select the car they want through the Tmall app, pick it up at the mechanical facility and take it on a three-day test drive.
The idea is not wholly unprecedented — Carvana operates similar car vending machines across the U.S. The startup has also added some cute features, like having shoppers insert a novelty coin to start the machine and get their test car delivered. It may sound like a silly feature, but it’s one customers actually like — as it apparently makes working with the Arizona-based startup a bit more memorable.
The Super Test-Drive Center is aiming less for a fun and authentic vending machine experience for its customers. Instead, it’s hoping to leverage Alibaba’s deep bench of customer insights. According to TechCrunch, the system will also connect potential buyers with discounts and incentives based on their usage on Alibaba’s ecosystem.
Whether the system takes off or not, Alibaba will certainly get a rather interesting bit of data about its customers. And, really, who can argue with a multi-story vending machine that actually delivers cars to drivers?
Still, one can’t help but think a giant novelty coin might help.