A NORTH-EAST electric vehicle firm is targeting China as it aims to capitalise on increasing revenues and profits.

Sevcon, in Gateshead, has launched a joint venture with a branch of automotive company Risenbo Technology.

Operating as Sevcon New Energy Technology Company, the move will see Sevcon's products sold to Chinese electric and hybrid vehicle suppliers.

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The move comes after Sevcon, which employs more than 100 workers, saw first quarter revenues rise 36 per cent to £5.5m and pre-tax profits increase to £435,000, thanks to improving market conditions.

Sevcon designs and makes controllers for on and off-road vehicles, including Renault's two-seater Twizy quadricycle, as well as motorcycles, trucks, buses, fork-lift trucks and mining vehicles.

Matt Boyle, Sevcon president and chief executive, said: “Demand was significantly higher in Japan and China, primarily for off-road applications, and although the European economy still faces challenges, this was our second consecutive quarter of growth in that region.

“Partnering with Risenbo is a unique opportunity for us to gain greater access to the world's largest electric and hybrid vehicle market.

“China has long been one of our most important growth regions, and it will open the door for us to help suppliers meet the country's fast-growing demand for zero-emission vehicles.”

The firm's financial performance follows a difficult period between late 2012 and early 2013, which saw a 10 per cent drop in annual revenues to £19.6m for the year ending September 30, 2013.

However, Mr Boyle said the company was now buoyed by strengthening global markets.

He added: “Customers are expressing a greater sense of confidence and orders are steadily improving.”

Last year, The Northern Echo revealed Sevcon had launched a drive to recruit more local workers after being forced to bring in workers from Colombia and Iran to plug a skills shortage.

Mr Boyle said: “We are very busy and are hiring people, and that includes maintaining our programme of sponsoring students because we need more engineers to fuel our growth.

“We're also taking the engineering message to secondary school pupils and giving them an understanding of the industry so they can start thinking about careers.”