The RX400h – a petrol-electric hybrid version of the RX sport utility vehicle – will go on sale in the UK early in 2005 and offer a combination of performance car acceleration and near diesel-like fuel consumption.
Stuart McCullough, director of Lexus Europe, said: 'The CO2 emissions are substantially reduced over a traditional petrol car of this type. We think it will account for about 50% or even 60% of RX sales.
'What will be intriguing to see is whether the fuel efficiency will make the SUV more accessible to people who wouldn't have previously considered one. Demand for hybrids is likely to outstrip our own projections and we are gaining momentum now that we have something to say about hybrids.
'Toyota's seven years of developing hybrids has given us a very deep understanding of the technology. It's not just something you can build on to cars.'
However, he added that hybrids would not be a short-term alternative to diesel engines and hinted that there would be more news on diesel 'sooner than you think'.