Tesla Motors began taking online orders for its Model S electric car in China today, joining General Motors Co. and Volkswagen in selling vehicles through Alibaba Group Holding's online shopping mall.
Buyers can place a 50,000-yuan ($8,200) deposit for the electric car through Alibaba's Tmall.com, according to Tesla China spokeswoman Peggy Yang. "Tmall offers us an opportunity to reach out to general customers," she said by telephone.
Tesla, led by billionaire Elon Musk, began deliveries of the Model S to the world's largest auto market in April. The automaker is seeking to cut down the time required to ramp up its sales by selling directly through the Web rather than set up a network of dealerships across the country.
"We know that it's a big, big challenge for all car manufacturers to penetrate into the huge mainland," Klaus Paur, London-based global head of automotive at researcher Ipsos, said by phone. "This plays perfectly into their strategy. Tesla came into the market doing things differently."
A total of 18 pre-configured cars are being offered through the marketplace, meaning consumers can't choose their trim and other features, Ms. Yang said.
Besides Tesla, Buick, Chevrolet, Geely Automobile Holdings Ltd. and Shanghai Volkswagen also have official sites on Tmall.com. Chevrolet sold 245 cars through the online mall this month, according to its website on the marketplace.
General Motors, which owns the Buick and Chevrolet brands, in August introduced an online Chevrolet dealership platform linking its dealers with Chinese consumers. About 200 distributors are expected to participate in the service by the end of the year, with plans to offer used-car sales and three dimensional vehicle configuration through the platform, the automaker said.
Daimler AG offered 666 units of its two-door Smart car on Sina Corp.'s Twitter-like Weibo service in January 2013.