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Toyota Motor Corp. will start building a Lexus sport-utility vehicle in January and begin selling it in the United States as early as next spring, an industry journal reported Monday.

The Lexus model would join other luxury four-by-fours, including offerings by Mercedes-Benz and Cadillac, expected in dealerships in the next two to three years as automakers seek to cash in on the hot-selling vehicles.

More than 1.5 million new sport-utility vehicles were sold last year in the United States. Sales of the vehicles rose about 13 percent from 1993, compared with the overall 8.5 percent growth in the U.S. auto market.

The Automotive News report from Tokyo said the Lexus vehicle would be built by Toyota's Araco Corp. affiliate in Japan and would be based on the top-end Toyota Land Cruiser sport utility.

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