Car Vending Machines Take Off

If you're looking for something a little different in your car-buying experience, a recent trend toward car vending machines may well appeal to you. And while the concept is not new, a Chinese company called Alibaba says it plans to take it a step further with one that promises to make the purchase process "as easy as buying a can of Coke."

According to the Financial Times, the project is part of Alibaba's plan to change the consumer landscape by blending online shopping with physical stores.

The planned Chinese endeavour won't be the first vehicle vending machine: a used exotic car retailer called Autobahn Motors began operating a 15-storey one in Singapore in late 2016, and U.S.-based vendor Carvana now operates six more modestly sized facilities in Atlanta, Nashville and four Texas cities, each one housing between 20 and 30 cars. Its latest store opened in San Antonio, Texas in March 2017.

But while the Carvana vending machines are really just a fancy way to deliver cars purchased through the company's website, Alibaba is set to take things a step further. Shoppers at the site will browse available cars on their smartphones, choose the one they want and buy it immediately, thanks to an all-in-one arrangement that will collect information on the buyer's credit rating and use that to arrange financing. Approved buyers will drive away with their new car after making a 10 percent down payment.

Alibaba has already proven itself well-versed in online car retailing, having used its Tmall platform to help Maserati sell 100 cars in 18 seconds, and Alfa Romeo move 350 cars in half a minute. While Carvana's vending machines are making headlines for the company now, it also provides home delivery of cars purchased through its website in the cities where it has physical facilities.

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