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Toyota Adds Cheapest Lexus Model to Raise Japan Sales

A Lexus CT200h hybrid
A Lexus CT200h hybrid sits on display during a media preview of the New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) in New York, on March 31, 2010. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Toyota Motor Corp. introduced its cheapest Lexus yet in Japan as the automaker struggles to replicate the luxury brand’s U.S. success in its home market.

The Lexus CT200h went on sale today priced from 3.55 million yen ($43,000), Toyota said in a statement, making it less expensive than the 3.95 million yen HS250h hybrid and 3.98 million yen IS250 sedan. The automaker, the world’s largest, plans to sell 1,500 units a month of the CT200h, it said.

The CT200h, a hybrid hatchback designed for the European market, may help boost sales in Lexus’s home country, where the brand’s sales rose 18 percent to 33,365 vehicles last year. Lexus outsold Bayerische Motoren Werke AG’s BMW and Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz to secure the top spot in U.S. luxury auto sales in 2010 for the 11th straight year, selling 229,329 vehicles.

“It’s positive for Lexus to increase sales by offering more hybrid models,” said Satoru Takada, a Tokyo-based analyst at TIW Inc. “After the success of the Prius, people trust its hybrid cars.”

The third generation of Toyota’s Prius gas-electric car was the best-selling car in Japan in December for the 19th straight month, according to Japan Automobile Dealers Association data.

Toyota rose 1.3 percent to close at 3,500 yen in Tokyo trading. The stock declined 17 percent in 2010.

The CT200h will also be sold in China, Europe and the U.S. The U.S. version will be priced from $29,120, according to the company’s website.

Toyota aims to sell 5,300 units of the CT200h a month outside Japan, said Masamoto Maekawa, a senior managing director for the carmaker.

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