Ford Motor and China’s Alibaba Group will jointly look for areas of cooperation, specifically in fields such as connectivity, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, mobility services and digital marketing.

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Ford China CEO Jason Luo (l) and Alibaba senior vice president Hu Xiaoming signed a cooperation agreement in Hangzhou (Photo: Ford)

The US carmaker said the two companies have signed a letter of intent to explore a strategic collaboration that will involve all of Alibaba’s business units.

The move is part of Ford’s renewed emphasis on the large Chinese market, where it is upping its sales targets.

At a signing ceremony in Hangzhou, Ford Motor CEO Jim Hackett said the cooperation with Alibaba “builds on our vision for smart vehicles in a smart world to reimagine and revolutionize consumers’ mobility experiences.”

And he characterized China as “one of the world’s largest and most dynamic digital markets, thriving on innovation with customers’ online and offline experiences converging rapidly.”

Ford has embarked on a strategy to broaden its business beyond traditional vehicle manufacturing and sales. The company is developing digital technologies and platforms as part of its new mobility drive.

Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said the company wants to “redefine the consumer journey and user experience for automobiles.” And he promised: “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.”

Ford and Alibaba will initially look at new retail opportunities that may exist during the car’s various ownership stages. They will investigate possible new approaches to pre-sales, test drives and leasing options.

In areas such as online retail marketing, distribution strategies, and infotainment services, the two companies want to focus on mobile technology, which is the preferred way Chinese consumers to access digital information.

Alibaba is China’s biggest e-commerce group with more than 20 billion dlrs in annual sales.

Separately, Ford this week unveiled ambitious sales targets for China, with plans to grow its revenue in the world’s biggest car market 50 pc between 2017 and 2025

Ford plans to offer more than 50 new Ford and Lincoln models in China by 2025, with a strengthened emphasis on SUVs. It also wants to offer more electric vehicles and it plans to launch at least 15 EVs in the market during the period.

“From luxury Lincolns, to Ford cars and SUVs, to an all-new electric vehicle brand, we will meet the growing desire and need in China for great new energy vehicles,” said Ford China CEO Jason Luo.

And, in an acknowledgment of Chinese customers’ focus on connectivity, Ford said that, by the end of 2019, all new Ford and Lincoln models will have either embedded modems or plug-in devices

Said Group CEO Hackett: “We are responding to the rapid pace of change by delivering increased connectivity and working to improve and simplify mobility for everyone.”