Car Vending machine
A customer goes through facial recognition system to access a car for test driving, at Alibaba's new Tmall car vending machine in Shanghai, China.Reuters

With electric vehicles destined to be the feature of our daily commute, auto companies are busy on their drawing boards thinking about novel ways to retail them.

Last week, US auto Major Ford announced it was partnering with China's e-commerce giant Alibaba supposedly "to explore new ways to redefine how consumers purchase and own vehicles, as well as how to leverage digital channels to identify new retail opportunities."

Also read: India's ambitious EV push: Are we ready? Challenges and roadblocks galore

And just a week later, we now hear that Alibaba is considering vending machines for electric cars. Alibaba is reportedly planning to set up at least two such car-vending machines in China by January 2018, a report in TechCrunch says.

Alibaba Car Vending machine

Customers who wish to buy electric cars can use the Taobao shopping app of Alibaba to check the cars they are interested in and then choose the colour to process the purchase. The app will primpt the customer to enter the basic information and a selfie, which will be used for facial recognition at the unmanned vending machine.

The person can then head to the machine and get the confirmation to take the vehicle for a test drive. The test drive is allowed for three days, during which the customers can either choose to buy it or go for a different test drive.

Also read: India Electric Vehicle sales: Gujarat tops the list; West Bengal, UP, Rajasthan and Maharashtra not far behind

But there is a catch. Not everybody can use the vending machine and get a car for test drive. Alibaba is reportedly limiting this facility to its Super Members and the credit scores they have reached for this.

Not a new idea?

Autobahn Motors, Singapore
An exotic used car dealership designed to resemble a vending machine in Singapore May 15, 2017.Reuters

This may not be an entirely novel idea. Autobahn Motors in Singapore is offering luxury vehicles on the working principle of a vending machine.

It is a 15-storey showroom in Singapore that can accommodate up to 60 vehicles and sells luxury vehicles including Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis.

The Autobahn Motors showroom in Singapore has been billed as the world's largest luxury car vending machine.