Lexus NX 300hThe Lexus NX will become the firm’s best-selling model in its first full year of production and is set to mark a stepchange in the firm’s European fortunes admits Toyota Motor Europe vice president Alain Uyttenhoven.

“It could be a gamechanger” he told Motoring Research during a UK briefing. “It is bringing new customers to us – different customers to those normally drawn to the brand.”

Around 80 per cent of these are conquest customers, largely from the Japanese firm’s rivals – and in the UK the figure is even higher, with an 86 per cent conquest rate.

“We have had 10,000 ‘hand-raiser’ expressions of interest and we have 800 firm order before anyone has had a test drive,” added UK director Richard Balshaw.

“It is our most successful pre launch ever.”

The premium compact SUV Lexus is launching into a market dominated by the Range Rover Evoque and Audi Q3. Lexus believes its leadership in hybrid technology will give it an immediate advantage, as will the brand’s luxury credentials.

But it is the NX’s striking styling that’s likely to be one of the biggest draws. “Lexus only has a chance [in the premium sector] if it stands out,” said Uyttenhoven. “We are thus moving away from the corner of rational arguments into the territory of emotion.”

After all, he added, “the number one reason people change brand is because they prefer the design” of the maker they’re moving to. Lexus wants to be that brand: for nearly 9 in 10 early NX buyers, it already is.