Europe's ruling luxury auto triumvirate -- Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar and BMW -- are firmly fixed in the crosswires of Toyota's upmarket car brand Lexus, as it prepares to turbocharge sales across the continent of Europe.

According to Toyota Motor Europe chief operating officer Takis Athanasopoulos, the Lexus marque's first diesel-engined autos will take to European roads in the near future, as will a hybrid petrol-electric offroader [SUV].

These new developments, alongside Lexus' established models are expected to hike sales from last year's pan-European total of 21,651 vehicles to 60,000-plus by 2010.

The Japanese automaker will, however, have to reckon with German duo, Mercedes and BMW, which between them bestride like Colossi the continent's luxury car market, with aggregated annual sales in excess of 500,000.

Nor is Ford Motor Company's British contender Jaguar, to be ignored. With its much-improved reliability and Ford marketing knowhow, the once-great racing brand could make a notable comeback at the expense of its three rivals.

The battleground is immensely lucrative. Says Athanasopoulos: "Europe is the cradle of the premium market. But we are operating in less than 50% of the market because we have no diesel engine, and diesel engines make up more than half of premium sales."

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff