|FRANKFURT - Toyota Motor Corp's premium division Lexus will launch its GS 450h hybrid car in Europe in the second quarter of next year, adding another arrow to its quiver of petrol-electric vehicles, it said on Tuesday.|
The front-engine, rear-wheel-drive car packs over 340 horsepower and gets from zero to 100 km/hour in under six seconds.
Lexus already sells the RX 400h luxury sport utility vehicle that combines a standard engine with an electric motor and batteries to improve fuel efficiency by running on electric power alone at low speeds.
Lexus aims to sell 4,500 of the hybrid SUVs in Europe this year and could sell many more if the supply were available, Karl Schlicht, vice president of Lexus Europe, said at the Frankfurt auto show.
The goal is to sell 10,000 of the fuel-efficient SUVs in Europe in 2006, he said.
He set an overall Lexus Europe sales target of 40,000 units next year, a gain of around half. "We expect hybrid sales to represent 25 percent of our total volume in 2006," he added.
In all, Lexus expects to boost European sales 15 percent to 28,500 units this year.
It launches a petrol engine version of its IS model in Europe in November, followed by a diesel version early next year as it broadens its model range.
Schlicht said Lexus had raised its European sales target for the conventionally-powered GS to 6,000 units this year from 4,000.
The world's second-biggest carmaker said in July it aimed to boost sales of its Lexus luxury cars to 500,000 units globally in 2006.
It is counting on this year's introduction of the Lexus line in Japan this year to revive demand in the premium segment, long dominated by European marques.
Lexus has been the US market's best-selling luxury brand for the past five years, but is still a fringe player in Europe -- home of the world's biggest premium carmakers such as DaimlerChrysler's Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
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