Alibaba Launches Giant Car Vending Machines In China

Shares of Alibaba fell on Thursday morning, despite an exciting news story involving the Chinese e-commerce juggernaut, which is rushing to shake up the way people buy cars in China. Alibaba seems to be taking a page from Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, with the continued push into physical retail. The plan outlined by Alibaba, is to open two giant car vending machines in early 2018, shaped like a futuristic tubular building with a giant cat’s head on top.

Having monopolized the online world, Alibaba continues to push offline with investments in Chinese bricks and mortar retailers.

Alibaba CEO Daniel Zhang said back in November, “physical stores serve an indispensable role during the consumer journey, and should be enhanced through data-driven technology and personalized services in the digital economy.”

“By fully integrating online and physical channels together with our partners, we look forward to delivering an original and delightful shopping experience to Chinese consumers,” he added.

So how does this vending machine work?

The smartphone user must open Alibaba’s Taobao app to scan a car. The app will then process the picture and let the user pick a color and other basic options.

Next, the app will require the user to take a selfie to confirm their identity. Once confirmed, the app will arrange for a test-drive at a car vending machine.

To retrieve the car, the customer will gain access through a facial recognition device at the staffless vending machine. According to the company, a “super member” does not need to leave a deposit to retrieve a vehicle.

Once the identity is confirmed, the multi-floor vending machine will rotate cars like a ferris wheel until the car is found. The test-drive is limited to three days, after which Alibaba can arrange for the sale or the user can choose a different model. Alibaba members are limited to five test-drives per month, where Alibaba is relying on its financial services arm to vet members before borrowing.

Alibaba said it will open two locations starting in January 2018 (Shanghai and Nanjing), and it plans to open “dozens” more across China later in the year. The vending machine concept blended with car buying, is an attempt by the company to streamline the buying process to as quick as opening a can of soda.

“Our thinking behind the Car Vending Machine is focused on helping users solve certain problems they face in the car-buying process. To do that, we are building a physical, experiential store that offers staffless car pickup through facial-recognition, three-day ‘deep’ test-drives, and a one-stop-shop that displays [cars from] all mainstream brands at once,” said Huan Lu, marketing director of Tmall’s automotive division.


PT Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:12 Permalink

Well, there you go.  If you make more money than a Chinese car salesman then you are paid too much and can be replaced by a robot.

Haus-Targaryen Stuck on Zero Sat, 12/16/2017 - 01:04 Permalink

Once I discovered copart my car purchasing experience changed completely. If you are half-way mechanically inclined and are literate in the English language ... there is truly no better way. No salesmen, cars are super cheap and fees are easily determined and never change. Now if your mechanically illiterate this would turn into a money-pit quickly. 

In reply to by Stuck on Zero

Majestic12 Haus-Targaryen Sat, 12/16/2017 - 13:33 Permalink

"arrange for a sale"

If this doesn't cut out the dealer and asshole sales manager trying to squeeze more out of you, then what good is it?

I've yet to pay credit on any car (only the first one was used) in 40 years.

You can get the manufacturer's invoice and work up, adding destination, tax and a "slim" profit".

You tell the sales manager, here it is, cash, take it or I walk to your competitor.

Do that in mid September and it works every time!

Most profit paid, $1,000 on a $45K vehicle, that retailed for $65K.

In reply to by Haus-Targaryen

SantaClaws Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:13 Permalink

Almost makes you feel sorry for the soon to be extinct human car salesman/saleswoman.  Almost.Query, how will the auto dispenser be programmed to cheat the buyer?

PT SantaClaws Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:21 Permalink

Easy."To complete transaction, please choose additional options:1.  Rust-proofing - extra 10 000 Yuan [excuse the made-up numbers.  I have no idea what reasonable-looking real-life figures would be.]2.  Extended Warranty - extra 15000 Yuan3.  Deluxe Sport Package - extra 25000 Y [consists of a couple of different-coloured body panels]4.  Leather Interior - extra 30 000 Y5.  Use our in-house Financing ......Please choose three or more options to complete your transaction."

In reply to by SantaClaws

PT PT Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:35 Permalink

The computer will have a direct link to your employer's computer, your bank account and all of your listening devices.  It will know exactly how much you can afford to pay and how desperate you are to purchase.  After purchase, your employer will know exactly how much you paid and how desperate you are.  That's when he screws you down for moar unpaid overtime if you want to keep your job (and your new car).Welcome to hell, although I think we are already there but most people just haven't figured it out yet.

In reply to by PT

MayIMommaDogFa… PT Fri, 12/15/2017 - 21:32 Permalink

Customer: We sat here right in this room and went over this and over this!Jerry: Yeah, but that TruCoat--Customer: I sat right here and said I didn't want no TruCoat!Jerry: Yeah, but I'm sayin', that TruCoat, you don't get it and you get oxidization problems. It'll cost you a heck of lot more'n five hundred--Customer: You're sittin' here, you're talkin' in circles! You're talkin' like we didn't go over this already!Jerry: Yeah, but this TruCoat--Customer: We had us a deal here for nine-teen-five. You sat there and darned if you didn't tell me you'd get this car, these options, without the sealant, for nine-teen-five!Jerry: All right, I'm not sayin' I didn't--Customer: You called me twenty minutes ago and said you had it! Ready to make delivery, ya says! Come on down and get it! And here ya are and you're wastin' my time and you're wastin' my wife's time and I'm payin' nineteen-five for this vehicle here!Jerry: All right. I'll talk to my boss. See, they install that TruCoat at the factory, there's nothin' we can do, but I'll talk to my boss.

In reply to by PT

erg Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:28 Permalink

What if after your deposit, it gets hung up on a mirror? Can you rock the building back and forth until it falls out?

Scornd Fri, 12/15/2017 - 20:40 Permalink

meh. they make cars disposable now, but they are basically a one or two owner purchase and the end cost has not reduced- making all new and used cars a huge rip off, in general.

u basically rent (all needs) and call it buying.

VWAndy Fri, 12/15/2017 - 21:01 Permalink

 One leaky car and most of them will be in need of a wash.Should the contraption get stuck? You wont be getting your car back for a bit.Far too complicated. One elevator between as many as eight towers would be so much better.

Whoa Dammit Fri, 12/15/2017 - 21:00 Permalink

Note that you must have a facial recognition cell phone to make a transaction. A requirement that will be coming soon to banks and retailers world wide.

Branded bardot63 Fri, 12/15/2017 - 22:02 Permalink

You'll want to watch this vid. It's by a couple of Westerners that married Chinese girls, and have lived there about 10 years each.They do traveling vids though China by motorcycle discussing what life is really like there both inside the cities and in the countryside.This vid deals with Ghost Cities - apparently it's a long term RE investment bubble by those with new money from the provinces, trying to store wealth by speculation for future generations within families.. . . great stuff, enjoy.

In reply to by bardot63

Throat-warbler… Fri, 12/15/2017 - 21:37 Permalink

How can you tell if a salesman is lying?  His lips move.What's the difference between a used car salesman and a technology salesman?  The used car salesman knows when he's lying.