TOKYO - In one corner of Genera Motors Corp.'s Asian Technical center (ASTEC) on the outskirts of Tokyo engineers are busy dismantling Nissan Pulsar.

Although the tear-down under way is part of an exercise modeled after Gm's Mona Lisa program to determine best-in-class parts used in the States, this car holds little interest for those focused on the U.S. market. "The U.S. doesn't understand the market here," says Keith Deyer, Delphi Chassis Systems chief engineer-Asia/Pacific, That's why the Pulsar - a tiny car more typical of Asia - was chosen as ASTEC's first competitive assessment project. GM isn't used to making parts for cars this small, but that is something it will have to learn if it is to succeed in tripling regional parts business to $3 billion - its goal by 2000.

Mr. Deyer and his team painstakingly weigh, measure, photograph and catalog each component before sending it along to the appropriate GM partsmaking division in the U.S. "We say, `Here's the state of the art in Japan; here's how it is assembled, etc.,'" says Mr. Deyer. The project already has taught engineers here a thing or two about how the Pulsar assembly process works and how Nissan has succeeded in eliminating fasteners, he says. They've also discovered the car's unique rear-axle design, he adds.

The Pulsar is one of four tear-down programs engineers hope to do annually at 4-year-old ASTEC. The three-story, 60,278-sq.-ft. (5,600-sq.-m) facility here houses vehicle and engine dynamometers; anechoic chambers; a fabrication shop; ignition, alternator and battery testing labs; and thermal testing chambers.

Most of its current contracts involve engine-management systems, but it also is working on lighting, ride and handling, thermal management, occupant environment, energy storage and conversion and power- and signal-distribution systems. Customers include most of the major automakers in the region - Japan's Big Four, Beijing Jeep Corp. and Shanghai Volkswagen Automotive Co. Ltd. in China and Daewoo Group, Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. and Ssangyong Motor Co. Ltd. in Korea.

ASTEC employs roughly 150 people and does 60% of its business - about $1 billion - with Japanese automakers. The bulk of that - all but about $160 million - is via Japanese transplants, but ASTEC expects the value of its Japan domestic contracts to double by 1999.

And while ASTEC has been an integral part of the overall push into Asia, GM-Delphi knows it can't continue to expand in the region without a full-time presence in other emerging markets. To that end, tentative plans call for Delphi technical centers in Beijing, Shanghai and Seoul by decade's end.

"We have 375 to 380 people for Delphi in the region now, and we'll have 500 by the middle of 1996 - 60% to 70% engineers," Delphi Asia Pacific President William A. Ebbert. "We think we're on a pretty good path to become a major component player in the market."