BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Alibaba Group Holding Ltd <BABA.N> has signed a deal with Ford Motor Co <F.N> to explore cooperation in areas such as cloud computing, connectivity and retail which could involve the sale of Ford cars on Alibaba's online retail platform Tmall.
Alibaba in a statement on Thursday said digital marketing-focused Alimama and operating system firm AliOS would be among subsidiaries working with Ford under the three-year agreement.
One avenue under consideration is the sale of Ford cars on Tmall, an Alibaba spokeswoman said. Reuters on Wednesday reported that Ford was planning to sign such a deal as it overhauls its China strategy to stimulate growth.
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"The agreement aims 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," Alibaba said in its statement.
The Chinese e-commerce firm and U.S. automaker will initially "explore a pilot study" for new retail opportunities, Alibaba said.
Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett in the statement said collaborating with technology firms builds on its vision to make "smart vehicles".
Ford's China sales have been sluggish in recent months as it struggles to keep pace with rapidly changing trends, including increased demand for entry-level cars in smaller cities.
Meanwhile Alibaba is increasing its presence in the automotive sector with Banma Technologies, a partnership with SAIC Motor Corp Ltd <600104.SS> developing Internet-connected cars.
(Reporting by Beijing Monitoring Desk and Brenda Goh in SHANGHAI; Additional Reporting by Norihiko Shirouzu; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Christopher Cushing)