Ford is expected to sign a deal with China’s Alibaba Group that may allow the carmaker to test selling cars to Chinese consumers via Alibaba’s online retail arm Tmall, formerly known as Taobao Mall. There will also be a new “auto vending machine” store concept, according to a Reuters report that quotes a Ford source familiar with the matter.

The report says that Ford bigwigs, including Blue Oval executive chairman Bill Ford Jr. and CEO Jim Hackett, are expected to be in Hangzhou today to sign a letter of intent that outlines the scope of the new partnership. Ford’s global chief spokesman Mark Truby said the company is expected to make an announcement today in Hangzhou, where Jack Ma’s Alibaba is based.

The source said the tie-up could mean that cars purchased online are delivered to buyers by franchised Ford retail stores and would be maintained and repaired by them.

Ford could also use Tmall’s new retail concept called the “Automotive Vending Machine” — a multi-storey parking garage — to sell directly to consumers. Those cars could come directly from Ford or its dealers, with details still to be worked out, the unnamed source added.

Alibaba says that consumers can use their phones to browse the cars in the garage, before choosing to either test drive it or buy immediately. The chosen vehicle would be delivered to the ground floor.

Back to Fords on Tmall, the model allows shoppers with good credit to purchase a car with a 10% downpayment, and then make monthly payments via Alibaba’s Alipay. This model bypasses the traditional dealership, but Ford believes dealers would agree to this direct selling model because they still get to service the cars, the source explained.

That won’t be the case, some experts say. “When online sales and direct sales volume was small that’s one thing. But if this format gained steam, it would definitely impact dealers. Retail innovation is great, but it’s by nature disruptive and can’t keep everybody happy,” said Yale Zhang, head of Shanghai-based consultancy Automotive Foresight. Dealers might also lose out on the lucrative financing aspect of their business.

Online car sales volumes are currently small in China because buyers want to be able to see, touch and drive cars before buying, Zhang pointed out. Getting a test drive via the internet could change that, though.

According to Reuters, Ford’s China sales have been sluggish in recent months partly because it has failed to catch on to fast-changing trends, including the rise of entry-level cars popular in smaller cities, where demand is rising. Ford’s sales in the first 10 months of 2017 were 938,570, a year-on-year decline of 5%. GM, which is much bigger in China, gained 2.2% to 3.13 million units in the same period.