European Hybrids Race to Succeed in U.S. Launches

In One of the Most Difficult Sales Periods Ever, Which Will Win Battle?

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DETROIT ( -- Three European automakers are introducing smaller luxury crossovers and SUVs this quarter, which is poised to be one of the most difficult periods for the U.S. industry in more than 40 years.

"It will be interesting to see who prevails in the slugfest," said John Maloney, VP-marketing and product planning, Volvo Cars North America. Volvo says small premium sport utilities are the world's fastest-growing industry segment, and within the next few years, buyers will have at least 10 crossover models to choose from.

Volvo will be the last to market in the segment, butting heads with Mercedes-Benz USA and Audi of America. The newest-generation Lexus RX will launch this week, and although auto experts place that bigger model in a different competitive category, its pricing and size mean Toyota's luxury marque could well be on the same shopping lists as the trio of new Europeans.

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