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Ford launches pilot vending machine for cars to go in China

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Ford unveiled a vending machine in China this week which dispenses cars to go. Designed to allow prospective customers to test-drive new cars, the giant Tmall vending machine in the city of Guangzhou can accommodate 42 vehicles and is the same size as a mini multi-storey car park.

Ford's partner for the new enterprise is a China based e-commerce conglomerate, the Alibaba Group. Announcing the inauguration of the car-to-go service, Alibaba says it takes just 10 minutes from online registration to the point the machine spits out the buyer's chosen set of wheels.

The machine's shelves are stocked with popular Ford models ranging from the Mondeo to the Mustang and Everest SUVs. Buyers book their initial test drives on the Alibaba Taobao app just by checking their desired vehicles and submitting to a facial scan for identification purposes.

The scan is used to unlock the Tmall vending machine and the vehicle. Customers then get three whole days to put the car through its paces. After the trial period is up, the choice is then whether to return the car or to buy it. Alibaba claims the trial is not a commitment to buy and people have the right to say no.

Tmall manager Gu Wanguo said the app was user friendly and allowed customers to do the complete transaction remotely. This includes confirming the deposit guarantee. The only drawback to the car-to-go service is that customers must have a good credit rating on the Tmall online retail platform.