Eric Zhou is interested in buying a Ford Kuga sport-utility vehicle. So last week, he picked up the car for a three-day test drive from a vending machine. Mr. Zhou never visited a dealership or spoke to a salesperson. He booked the test drive online, then showed up at a service center where employees can identify would-be buyers using facial-recognition technology. His SUV was then delivered from the eight-story “vending machine”—essentially an automated parking garage. “This is so much more efficient and convenient than traditional dealerships,” said Mr. Zhou, 38 years old. It’s the first of several such car-vending centers that Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. plans to open across China this year—part of the company’s latest effort to translate its success in online retailing to the physical shopping world . Alibaba is betting on the experiment to succeed in China, where consumers have enthusiastically […]