In the months since Jim Hackett took over as CEO of America's most recognizable car brand, he's made several assertions for the struggling automaker, including that Ford would not be left in the dust when it comes to technology.
On Wednesday, Dec. 6, news broke that seemed to confirm those assertions: Ford Motor Co. (F - Get Report) is preparing to sign a deal with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA - Get Report) that could allow it to test selling cars to Chinese consumers through Alibaba's online retail arm Tmall and through a new "auto vending machine" store concept, Reuters reported citing a Ford source familiar with the matter.
In China, Ford has done well to increase its market share over the past decade or so, having grown its sales from less than 5,000 vehicles in 2003 to 950,000 in 2016. Still, the company continues to lag behind its largest competitor, General Motors Co. (GM - Get Report) , which sold nearly 3.9 million vehicles in China in 2016.
Partnering with Alibaba to expand its reach in the world's largest automotive market could be a profitable move for Ford, however, markets shrugged off the news Wednesday, with Ford remaining in the red around 3 p.m.
Ford and Alibaba representatives, including Ford executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. and Hackett, are expected to be in Hangzhou, China, on Thursday, Dec. 6, to sign a letter of intent that outlines the scope of the new partnership, Reuters reported.
According to the Reuters source, the deal is intended to position Dearborn, Michigan-based Ford for an emerging Chinese marketplace where more cars could be sold online.
Since Hackett took over in May, Ford has been vocal about forming partnerships to fill gaps in its portfolio. The company in September announced a partnership with Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., through which the two may team up to tackle developing stronger connected, electric and autonomous driving capabilities.
Ford and Alibaba representatives could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
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