With increasingly saturated domestic markets, the world’s major carmakers are flocking to developing markets such as China and India, where car ownership figures still have plenty of room to grow. It therefore makes sense to have a base in these countries, to design, modify and manufacture cars according to local tastes. GM-SAIC’s PATAC facility on the outskirts of Shanghai is a great example of this – initially a “rebadging centre”, it’s now capable of full vehicle development (Chevrolet Sail) and even concept cars (Buick Business Concept).

Now, Nissan has announced that it will establish a design studio in Beijing. Scheduled to open early 2011 in the Chao Yang district, it will be the first design facility in China by a Japanese automaker. The studio will be part of Nissan’s global network of design centers, which includes two facilities in Japan (Atsugi and Harajuku), one in America (San Diego) and one in London, UK. Nissan’s Chinese subsidiary will invest RMB 11.76 million (US$ 1.7 million) to set it up.

“With the addition of 20 designers, Nissan’s new studio will enhance our design capabilities, as well as our product competitiveness in China and Asia where the automotive industry continues to see robust growth,” said Shiro Nakamura, Nissan’s chief creative officer and senior vice president of design.

“Locating the studio where our customers live and work allows us to best respond to their needs and design vehicles that exceed their expectations.” Nakamura-san also added that the Chinese capital’s expanding design community made it a “natural choice” over rival cities such as Shanghai.