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GUANGZHOU, China (Kyodo) Dongfeng Motor Co., a joint venture between Nissan Motor Co. and Dongfeng Automotive Investment, has completed a technical center to conduct research and development on cars in Guangzhou, the automaker said Monday.

Dongfeng Nissan Technical Center, which has been built at a cost of 330 million yuan, or $41.1 million, will replace an existing similar center. It will start out with about 320 employees and cooperate closely with Nissan’s technical center in Japan and elsewhere.

The new center will also develop parts and work on cost reduction in partnership with local vendors, the carmaker added.

The 200,000-sq.-meter center in Huadu, an industrial hub near the provincial capital Guangzhou, includes a laboratory with state of the art equipment for vehicle experiments, which makes it the largest development base in the southern Chinese region, Nissan Senior Vice President Kimiyasu Nakamura said.

Dongfeng Motor, established in 2003, is now in the second stage of a three-stage plan, producing cars in China based on those developed in Japan, said Nissan, quoting Dong Dongcheng, vice president of the joint venture, as saying.

In the first stage, the company sold in China cars that were built in Japan. In the third stage, it will try to sell cars there made locally through joint development work with the Japanese automaker.

Dongfeng’s plans call for raising car sales to 200,000 units in 2006, up from 157,500 last year, and then to 300,000 next year.

The completion of the new technical lab comes on the heels of the company’s recent opening of an engine plant and increased investment in car production facilities.