Kia’s joint venture in China, Dongfeng Yueda Kia Motors, is investing about US$150m in an R&D centre so that it can develop its own brand of cars.

Construction of the centre is due to start this year and will finish by 2015, Shao Yong, vice chairman of the venture’s parent company Jiangsu Yueda Group, told reporters in Beijing.

Overall sales in China surged 32% last year to a record 18.06m vehicles making it the world’s largest market for the second successive year.

Kia has said that it wants to boost sales in the country 29% this year to 430,000 units.