Ford to Partner with Alibaba

Ford models at Auto Guangzhou in Guangzhou

Direct sales from automaker to consumer are possible in China and other global markets, but the practice is generally illegal in most USA states.

"The multi-pronged "letter of intent" will investigate leveraging Alibaba's Tmall online store to sell new vehicles, as well as its new "'auto vending machine' store concept", an idea that sounds more than a bit like what used car retailer Carvana has pioneered with increasing success. The deal could be announced as early as tomorrow, and it would reportedly allow the US -based automaker to sell cars on Tmall, which is Alibaba's e-commerce division. It's suggested that Ford could implement Tmall's "Automotive Vending Machine" concept-ostensibly a massive parking garage that stores vehicles to be test-driven and purchased by customers. But Ford executive chairman William C. Ford Jr. thinks China will be the most promising market for the development and sale of electric vehicles, according to the New York Times.

Representatives of Ford and Alibaba, including Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Ford CEO Jim Hackett, are expected to be in Hangzhou on Thursday to sign a letter of intent that outlines the scope of the new partnership. The automaker is also said to be overhauling its strategy for China, where it has lost its momentum in growth.

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Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) could be just days away from a deal with China's biggest e-commerce company to sell its cars directly to Chinese consumers, both online and via innovative in-person experiences. Alibaba is headquartered in Hangzhou.

Vehicles that are bought online are to be delivered to buyers by franchised Ford retail stores and repaired and maintained by them as well.

The major shift in the world's largest auto market has jolted some automakers, sparking a spate of recent electric vehicle joint ventures in the market.

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