BMW Group Korea said it had completed construction of a new research and development (R&D) centre in South Korea to strengthen collaboration with local component manufacturers and technology providers.

The automaker revealed earlier this month it spent KRW6.5trn (US$4.7bn) with South Korean suppliers for its global operations last year, mainly buying automotive components including tyres.

Since 2010, the company has spent US$22bn with South Korea suppliers.

BMW is South Korea’s largest vehicle importer with combined sales of its BMW and Mini brands around 87,000 units last year or 32% of import volume.

BMW said the new R&D centre, located in Cheongna International City in Incheon, was equipped with ‘cutting edge’ test equipment which would strengthen the automaker’s existing R&D operations nearby which were built in 2015 and include a driving centre.

BMW also said it planned to increase cooperation with South Korean technology startups and institutions through its global Startup Garage for the development of new technology and vehicle content.

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It was currently collaborating with local companies on development of new GPS navigation systems, voice recognition and user interface (UI) prototypes.

The new R&D centre will also be used to develop “optimised” content for imported vehicles sold in South Korea as well as to conduct pre launch tests of new models to ensure they meet local standards.