Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan has announced today (18 December) that it will launch a joint research centre in coordination with Beijing-based Tsinghua University.

The two parties have signed a memorandum of understanding on “comprehensive cooperation”, including ongoing joint research and also human resource development and exchange – the latter of which has been running since 2016.

The scope of the research will focus on how to communicate effectively to members of Gen Z and ways to increase automakers’ roles and social responsibilities within the electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem.

“We hope that this collaboration will help us gain a deeper understanding of the Chinese market and develop strategies that better meet the needs of customers in China and contribute to sustainable development by returning the results of our joint research to the Chinese economy and society,” said Makoto Uchida, Nissan’s president and CEO.

China’s electric vehicle market is undergoing tremendous growth due to government incentives and domestic demand, with Beijing officials gearing up to turn the country into an EV production powerhouse. However, this has led to concerns from Western companies, which have raised the alarm over unfair competition. 

On 4 October, the European Commission launched a formal investigation into the imports of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) from China. The investigation is looking to determine whether the value chains in China benefit from illegal subsidisation and the damage government-backed subsidies are causing to EU BEV manufacturers.

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By GlobalData

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU “will act decisively” over any potential evidence showcasing market distortions and unfair competition.

“The electric vehicle sector holds huge potential for Europe’s future competitiveness and green industrial leadership,” von der Leyen said at the time. “EU car manufacturers and related sectors are already investing and innovating to fully develop this potential.

“Wherever we find evidence that their efforts are being impeded by market distortions and unfair competition, we will act decisively. And we will do this with full respect for our EU and international obligations – because Europe plays by the rules, within its borders and globally. This anti-subsidy investigation will be thorough, fair, and fact-based.”

China’s BEV market is expected to reach 10 million units a year by 2025, according to GlobalData research. In 2022 alone, the market expanded by 88%, especially in the plug-in hybrids (PHEV) sector. Overall growth shows the market has grown from one million sales in 2020 to five million in 2022.

For Nissan, news about the joint research centre came after, at the end of November, the Japanese car giant said it would invest £3bn ($3.8bn) in expanding its UK battery production and infrastructure at its factories, in addition to producing three EV models.