Ford partners with Alibaba Group in China

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. on Thursday announced another Chinese partnership to expand its footprint in the world’s largest auto market.

The Dearborn-based automaker has a three-year agreement with Alibaba Group to find new ways to sell vehicles in China. Alibaba is often referred to as China’s Amazon. The partnership could bring about online retail opportunities for Ford in China.

The news comes as Ford CEO Jim Hackett and Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. wrap a week-long trip to the country. It’s the latest partnership in a series in recent months as Ford amplifies its presence in China.

In November, the company announced a $756 million partnership with Anhui Zotye Automobile Co. to build electric vehicles there. Earlier this week, Bill Ford and Hackett announced plans to bring 50 new vehicles to market in China by 2025, and to build five new vehicles in that country.

Ford is a company that’s pegged China as a place it can win — and maybe win big.

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

The Alibaba partnership was formed so the companies could jointly find new ways to sell vehicles, which could include an online component. The automaker and retailer want to “redefine consumer retail experiences and explore solutions for sustainable mobility.”

The companies will also work together in the fields of mobility, connectivity, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and digital marketing. The companies’ first task will be figuring new ways for people to buy, maintain and own vehicles using the internet, computers or other technology, according to a news release.

And while Ford benefits from Alibaba’s retail and digital experience, Alibaba can pull from Ford’s experience running a global company as the Chinese company tries to expand.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau