Nidec to set up motor R&D site in China amid Sino-US tensions

Linda J. Dodson

KYOTO/DALIAN — Nidec, the world’s largest motor manufacturer, will set up a new research and development facility in China for drive motors used in electric vehicles, Nikkei has learned, hoping to counter risks arising from Sino-U.S. tensions and also take in Chinese demand.

The Japanese company plans to also develop motors for use in elderly care robots and home appliances. The new R&D center is scheduled to come into operation in 2021 and will be inside its new factory in the northeastern city of Dalian that is under construction with investment of about 100 billion yen ($920.64 million).

With about a thousand employees, Nidec’s new research center would match the company’s mid-sized R&D site in Japan’s Shiga Prefecture. Up to about 400 of the staff will be assigned for EV drive motors.

The company also plans to increase staff numbers at two other existing sites in China. Engineers specializing in EV, which Nidec sees as a key growth area, will increase from the current 100 to 650 in a few years.

Nidec’s Chairman and CEO Shigenobu Nagamori has been a vocal advocate of cross-border expansion and has questioned efforts by governments including Japan’s to “reshore” manufacturing.

“We should have more [globalization]. Bringing all supply chains back home only increases risks,” he told Nikkei in an interview in April.

Nidec’s move comes as its global competitors are also rushing to ramp up their business in China. Germany’s Continental plans to open an R&D center in Tianjin in 2021, while another German manufacturer, Bosch, has partnered with a local company to supply EV motors.

Amid concerns that the U.S. could tighten restrictions against Chinese products, Nidec would have major operations in the world’s two biggest economies. It already has sites in the U.S. for vehicle motors and industrial and appliance motors.

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