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Old 08-10-2006, 09:00 PM   #26
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DETROIT -- The reborn Chevrolet Camaro, due in early 2009, will be a muscle car tailored to an era of expensive gasoline, Chevrolet's top marketer said today.

Speaking at a press event, Chevrolet General Manager Ed Peper said: "We will offer V-6 and V-8 engine variants. We think we'll be able to have really strong gas mileage, certainly on the V-6 model and the V-8, too."

General Motors uses cylinder deactivation, which it markets as Active Fuel Management, to boost mileage on its new crop of full-sized SUVs. Peper said that technology could be used on the Camaro.

"We may well have Active Fuel Management on the V-6, if that's what somebody wants," he said. "But remember, we produce Corvettes now that get over 400 hp and get 28 miles to the gallon."

Despite rising gasoline prices, the Camaro gives GM an entry into the growing muscle-car revival that includes cars such as Ford's Mustang-based Shelby GT500 and the Dodge Challenger, scheduled to reach showrooms in 2008 with a Hemi engine.

Peper identified the Mustang and Challenger as key competitors. GM has declined to reveal Camaro pricing, but Peper said the car is "going to be the best value in every segment where we can be."

Production in 2008

GM has big plans for the Camaro. CEO Rick Wagoner said today that the car will go into production in late 2008 and will go on sale in early 2009. The production Camaro will closely resemble the concept car unveiled in January at the Detroit auto show, he said.

Wagoner said the sports coupe will be available with a variety of engines and transmissions. He hinted that a convertible version might also be in the works.

"It will come in many shapes and sizes," Wagoner said.

The car will be engineered by GM's Holden subsidiary in Australia but built in North America, Wagoner said today at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich.

GM will announce the car's production site later, Wagoner said. He made no comment on the potential for a Pontiac Firebird version of the car.

Before GM killed both cars in 2002, the Firebird was a sibling vehicle of the old Camaro. But giving Pontiac a new Firebird appears to be a subject of debate within GM.

John Larson, GM's general manager of Pontiac-Buick-GMC, says he intends to push for a Chevrolet Camaro-type product for Pontiac, possibly to replace the GTO. Pontiac will kill the GTO at the end of this model year. But company insiders have said Pontiac will not get a Firebird.

Independent rear suspension

Wagoner did not offer many technical details, but he did say the new Camaro would have an independent rear suspension system to improve handling. That is a feature that Mustang fans clamored for but did not get.

High-performance variants of the Camaro will likely be powered by a version of GM's classic small block V-8 engine -- such as the one used in the outgoing GTO, which developed 400 hp.

The 2009 Camaro will share some styling cues with the 1969 model, but GM does not view it as a retro car, Wagoner said. The goal of the new car's styling was to appeal to those who like the '69 model, along with younger buyers, he said.

Since showing the concept version of the Camaro at the Detroit auto show, GM has been flooded with requests to build the car and has been offered deposits by enthusiasts.

It took GM about eight months to make a business case for the Camaro. Wagoner said today that he agreed with GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz's assessment that the company could sell 100,000 Camaros a year. Ford Motor Co. sold 100,995 Mustangs through July of this year.

GM was widely expected to approve the car for production. In April, a Detroit area GM dealer even started advertising the car for sale.
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