Tyre maker Pirelli has become the latest Italian firm to head for China, announcing plans to invest $US180 million there over the next two years.

“We are here because we want to be Chinese in China. We have ambitious plans,” chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera said at the opening of Pirelli’s first Chinese tyre plant, in the region of Shandong, according to Reuters.

The news agency noted that Pirelli has so far only exported products to the $8 billion Chinese market.

Pirelli’s 750-employee plant, a joint venture with local group Yinhe, will produce 1.2 million tyres a year, destined for the Chinese, Southeast Asian and Australian markets, Reuters said.

The report said China is the world’s fastest-growing tyre market and already accounts for 9% of global sales.

Pirelli operates 24 plants in 12 countries including Turkey, Brazil and Egypt, Reuters noted.