Ford has partnered up with e-retail giant Alibaba to explore opportunities in pre-sales, test drives and financial solutions in China.

Ford will collaborate with four of Alibaba’s divisions on areas including connectivity, digital marketing and retail.

One of the units involved is Alibaba’s B2C platform Tmall, which since August has been experimenting with direct online car hire purchase.

Tmall’s system involves a customer browsing available cars on their phone and then having it delivered to the ground floor of a “vending machine”-like parking lot where the cars are stored.

Underwriting for the HP contracts relies on Sesame, Alibaba’s credit score assessment system. Additionally, monthly instalments need to be processed through payment platform Alipay.

In light of this, Ford could rely on Alibaba’s existing financing infrastructure for the sales process, rather than on Ford Automotive Finance China, though the carmaker is not commenting on the specifics at this point.

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By GlobalData

Jim Hackett, Ford president and chief executive officer, said: “China is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic digital markets, thriving on innovation with customers’ online and offline experiences converging rapidly. Collaborating with leading technology players builds on our vision for smart vehicles in a smart world to reimagine and revolutionize consumers’ mobility experiences.’’

Alibaba chief executive officer Daniel Zhang added: “Alibaba is excited to redefine the consumer journey and user experience for automobiles together with Ford Motors. Our data-driven technology and platform will expand the definition of car ownership beyond just having a mode of transportation and into a new medium for smart lifestyle.”

In 2016, Ford sold 1.27m vehicles in China, up 16% from the previous year.