Nissan Motor Co. is expanding its research ties with a Chinese university as it and other foreign car companies try to claw back market share in the important Chinese market.

The Japanese automaker announced that it would launch joint research next year with Tsinghua University on reaching Generation Z — defined for this project as those born between 1995 and 2009 — and on the social responsibility of automakers in battery recycling, charging stations and other electric vehicle-related issues.

The major auto companies were caught flat-footed by a boom in electric vehicles in China that has given rise to new Chinese competitors that have gobbled up market share at home and are now moving into Southeast Asia, Europe and other overseas markets. Nissan's sales in China plunged 34% in the six months from April to September compared with a year earlier.

“Market conditions in China have become extremely tough,” Masashi Matsuyama, the head of Nissan's Chinese investment company, said at a news conference in Beijing.

Nissan plans to develop 10 further new-energy vehicles for the Chinese market, four under its own brand by 2026 and the other six for Chinese joint venture partners. The company is aiming to launch the first Nissan-branded model in the second half of next year.

The automaker is also stepping up its electric vehicle offerings in other markets. Nissan, which has an alliance with French automaker Renault SA, announced last month that it would retool a factory in Great Britain to make electric versions of its two best-selling vehicles.

China's electric vehicles have become a trade issue for the European Union, which has launched an investigation into Chinese government subsidies to determine whether they have given China-based manufacturers an unfair competitive advantage.

Nissan and Tsinghua University have been research partners for several years. They established a joint center in 2016 to study electric vehicles and autonomous driving for the Chinese market.