China's BYD plans to invest RMB1.5bn to build the country's largest vehicle testing centre.

The company, backed by billionaire investor Warren Buffett and an acknowledged pioneer in electric vehicles and battery technology, said that it wants to strengthen its research and development capability as well as to enhance product quality.

The new centre will be in Shaoguan, Guangdong province, and will also make vehicle parts. Operations are due to begin before 2012. BYD makes all its own vehicle parts except for the windscreen and tyres.

BYD said that it hopes the R&D facility will help it break into the top ranks of the global automobile industry in terms of research capability and vehicle quality control.

The new centre is in addition to quality control systems at its manufacturing bases in Xi'an and Shenzhen; a vehicle crash testing lab in Shanghai and an R&D centre at its headquarters in Shenzhen.

BYD announced in late September that a high-speed curved track in Shenzhen, the fifth such proving ground in China, had gone on-stream, making it the first Chinese automaker to have its own circuit.

"BYD always attaches much attention and invests hugely in R&D and quality control as we believe the quality of our products is vital to our long-term development," said Xu An, BYD's public relations manager. "We have seen beneficial results from insisting on quality control, especially in making the auto parts ourselves, during previous years."

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