BEIJING: Nissan plans to use local knowledge to grow its sales in China, with a design centre in Beijing planning to cater more specifically to Chinese consumers.

Nissan Design China employs designers aged mainly in their twenties or thirties, reports the Wall Street Journal, and they believe they have greater understanding of what Chinese consumers want.

"China's auto market is booming and having designs with Chinese elements will no doubt increase our competitive edge in this market," the Japanese automaker said in a statement.

Toyota, Volkswagen, General Motors and Honda are among the other foreign car manufacturers that have set up Chinese design centres, but Japanese companies are suffering generally because of poor relations between Tokyo and Beijing.

Tensions have been rising over disputed islands in the East China Sea, and Nissan saw its sales slip by 5.3% in 2012, reversing a 22% gain the previous year.

"In the past, international automakers' China centres have mainly focused on local revisions, adapting foreign designs to China's road conditions and fuel quality", said Sa Boni, an analyst at IHS, the US research group.

"But in the future the trend will be to make overall design including appearance aimed at Chinese consumer tastes," he added.

Shiro Nakamura, chief creative officer at Nissan Motor Company, said that despite the newness of the Beijing design centre he expected designs from there to feature in Nissan models within a few years.

Data sourced from the Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff