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Honda launches R&D centre in China to tailor cars for local drivers

SHANGHAI, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Honda Motor Co Ltd has opened a new research and development centre in China, the latest move by a Japanese carmaker to go local to capture more consumers in the world's biggest auto market.

The establishment of Honda Motor China Technology Co in the southern city of Guangzhou is designed to strengthen R&D, parts procurement and production functions in China, Honda said in a statement on Tuesday.

Japanese carmakers have been trying to catch up with global rivals such as Volkswagen AG and General Motors Co in localising production in China to track consumers' needs as well as cut costs.

Honda said on Monday that its October China sales more than tripled from a year earlier. The sharp rise was partly due to the low comparison base from last year when sales were hit by a flare-up in anti-Japanese sentiment following a territorial dispute.

The company has previously said that of the 12 new car models to be introduced to China during the 2013-2015 period, five will be China-exclusive models, including two developed locally.

In August, Toyota Motor Corp began construction of a new R&D facility in China, with its local partner FAW Group. The division will hire more than 1,000 people and promote the development of local brands.

Rival Nissan Motor Corp has launched its fifth global design centre in Beijing.

So far, much of the localisation of auto parts by Japan's carmakers has been limited to firms supplying electrical and interior parts that are considered less vital to car safety.