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Before launching the Lexus RX300, Steve Sturm asked consumers what they wanted in a compact luxury sports-utility vehicle. In response, he promised versatility and luxury, at a value price.

In March 1998, the $30,000-plus RX300 was introduced with unit sales predicted to run into the low 30,000s. Lexus sold more than 42,000 models for that year.

By the end of 1999, Lexus expects to sell up to 70,000 vehicles. The RX300 is now the best selling of Lexus' six models.

"We had to position ourselves uniquely," says Mr. Sturm, who was corporate marketing manager during the vehicle's launch before being named VP-marketing, Toyota Motor Sales USA, last April. He did it with a campaign featuring the tag "Like no other vehicle on earth," from Team One, El Segundo, Calif.

Initial TV spots, which broke during the 1998 Winter Olympics, emphasized the vehicles's innovation and featured a Fellini-esque carnival scene comparing the vehicle's arrival to the excitement caused when a circus comes to town.

"We probed the market from the consumer's point of view and found that a singular message ran across the board, whether they see [the RX300] in an auto show or in sales," says Mr. Sturm. "We've always been known as a high-quality

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