Toyota unveiled the newest version of its flagship Crown luxury car on Monday with hopes of reinvigorating the sluggish Japanese sedan market and grabbing sales away from dominant European brands, Reuters reported.

"The Crown has a very special place in Toyota's branding and history," company president Fujio Cho reportedly said at the unveiling, standing in front of a display of the original 1955 model.

"We want to reverse the slide in sedan sales and the dominance of European brands in this segment. That is why we decided to repackage and launch this new car," he added, according to Reuters, which noted that Toyota's sales of high-end large sedans have fallen to less than 8,000 units a month this year, from around 12,000 in 2000.

Foreign brands command about a third of Japan's market for full-sized passenger cars, the report said.

Reuters said the 12th-generation "Zero Crown" uses a new platform with a longer wheelbase and wider track for better stability  and is intended to attract younger buyers in their 40s through improved driving performance and a more dynamic design.

Toyota aims to sell a combined 5,000 units a month of the Royal and Athlete models of the Zero Crown series in Japan, which would be about double the average monthly sales of the previous Crown models, Reuters added.

"We set our sales target high because we believe the Japanese economy has escaped rock-bottom," senior managing director Kyoji Sasazu told Reuters, which said that prices range between 3.15 million yen and 4.9 million yen ($US29,200 to $45,430).

Reuters noted that Toyota is also set to challenge the might of the Europeans in the higher-end sedan segment by bringing the Lexus brand to Japan in August 2005, hoping to emulate its success in the United States.

But the news agency said that doing so presents a challenge for Toyota, which will need to differentiate the two brands to ensure that Lexus models don't steal sales from the Toyota brand [Lexus models have so far been sold in Japan as Toyotas].

"Clearly defining the individual brand and design identities for Toyota and Lexus is critical," executive vice president Akihiko Saito told the news agency.

He reportedly said the redesigned Crown offers a glimpse of the Toyota brand's new design philosophy, dubbed "vibrant clarity" - aimed at encompassing simplicity and functionality - as opposed to the Lexus's "L-finesse" design characterising intensity and depth.

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