Tesla is reportedly searching for a design director to head a full-function studio in China that will come up with electric vehicles tailored to local consumer tastes. Citing a trio of sources familiar with the matter, Reuters reports that the company has already been trawling the industry over the past four months in search of a likely candidate.

Speaking to the wire service on the condition of anonymity, the sources said that the automaker is looking for “bi-cultural” candidates with 20 or more years of experience familiar with Chinese tastes, and who can bridge the gap between the two cultures.

The talent search is mainly focused within China, and some candidates have apparently been interviewed by Tesla’s global design chief Franz von Holzhausen, although it wasn’t clear how many potential candidates had been approached.

One of the sources said that once a design director has been hired, Tesla will then recruit the rest of the team, which is likely to be around 20-strong and include designers plus clay modellers. The planned centre is aimed at being a comprehensive design outfit, with the ability to not only conceptualise a design of a car but also come up with the final shape of a model.

It was added that the studio would likely carry out research on Chinese consumer tastes, which would help the automaker give its vehicle design any needed adaptation for the market, as well as work on cars expected to be produced at the company’s assembly plant in Shanghai. The company sold around 145,000 vehicles in China last year, accounting for roughly a third of the company’s overall global volume.

The reported plans for a design studio in China fits with comments Tesla boss Elon Musk – who is now the richest person in the world – made early last year. “I think something that would be super cool would be to create a China design and engineering centre to actually design an original car in China for worldwide consumption. I think this would be very exciting,” he said.

However, the sources added that the automaker’s plans for the China design studio – which will be located in either Shanghai or Beijing – are not fully developed, and it is likely that the company will wait for more clarity on strained US-China relations following the change in the American presidency before making a final decision on the move and its details. The automaker did not respond to the request from Reuters for comment.