TOKYO -- Toyota Motor Corp. unveiled Monday its Harrier SUV, the U.S. version of which will be the first Lexus model to be built outside Japan.
Toyota is hoping for sales of 2,500 Harriers a month in Japan and 9,000 units in the main U.S. market, where the model will be sold as the RX330 under Toyota's Lexus luxury line this spring.
Toyota will build the Harrier at its Kyushu plant in southern Japan and initially export the vehicles to the United States. Production will begin in Canada this autumn at a pace of 5,000 units a month.
Despite a heated antiSUV campaign by environmentalists and other activists in the United States, the cars remain one of the fastest growing segments in the country.
The Harrier series has been especially successful, with cumulative sales reaching 530,000 units since its introduction in 1997. Lexus also is the top-selling luxury brand in the United States.
Asked if Toyota planned to build other Lexus cars outside Japan, President Fujio Cho told reporters: "At the moment we have absolutely no such plans."
He added that other models had to be exported because sales volumes were too low to produce abroad.
The Harrier will be equipped with a new safety feature: a "pre-crash" system that detects an object in front of the car and tightens the seatbelt in advance if it determines that a collision cannot be avoided.
Part of the technology is licensed from rival Nissan Motor Co., which plans to introduce a similar safety feature in its next luxury model.
The Harrier will sell for between $20,670 to $30,460 in Japan.