By Hong Kong Newsroom
HONG KONG (Mar 08) -- Alibaba Group Holding said it is expanding ties with Renault to collaborate in areas from internet connectivity of the latter's vehicles to improving the French carmaker's retail operations.
Under the partnership, Alibaba's online market place Tmall will offer Renault support in "channel expansion to business-model innovation tailored to the China market," the e-commerce major said in a statement on Thursday.
The partnership expands beyond a separate relationship between Dongfeng Renault -- a joint venture between Dongfeng Motor Group and Renault -- and AutoNavi, a mapping unit of Alibaba.
It comes at a time when automakers and technology companies are rushing to form alliances with an eye on automated driving in China, the world's largest market for automobiles. Carmakers and Chinese Internet companies such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent Holdings have been investing heavily in artificial intelligence-powered technologies to crunch data in split seconds and offer personalized services to customers.
Liu Bo, marketing director of Tmall, said the latest tie-up will provide smart internet services, which will be equipped on Renault's models as early as this year.
"We are also proactively exploring how internet technology can be applied to cars," Liu said.
In December, Alibaba signed a similar deal with U.S. carmaker Ford Motor to explore cooperation in areas such as cloud computing, connectivity and retailing, which could involve the sale of Ford cars on Alibaba's online retail platform Tmall.
In January, Canada's Blackberry tied up with Baidu to jointly develop self-driving technology.
For Renault, the partnership comes at a time when the company is seeking to expand its sales in Asia Pacific four times to 700,000 cars by 2022. According to a Bloomberg report Wednesday, more than 75% of those sales are set to come from China.
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