The automaker intends to lead Detroit's Big Three in the world's largest automotive market.

Ford has announced a strategic partnership with Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

The companies will collaborate on a broad range of subjects including cloud computing, artificial intelligence, digital marketing and connectivity.

Ford CEO Jim Hackett says China's innovation in digital markets is causing a convergence of "customers' online and offline experiences," hinting at a potential online sales model for Ford's existing sales operations tied to a pair of 50:50 joint ventures with domestic automakers.

Ford will gain access to Alibaba's dominant online sales platforms, while Alibaba will benefit from Ford's global reach.

The collaboration will start with a pilot study on new retail models with a focus on pre-sales, test drives and leasing.