Chevrolet had been widely expected to unveil the Camaro concept car at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, a day after DaimlerChrysler's U.S. division rolled out a version of the rival Dodge Challenger.
Many expect Chrysler and Chevrolet to put the Challenger and Camaro into production, given Ford Motor Co.'s (F)success with its redesigned version of the original 1960s muscle car, the Mustang.
Executives at GM, the world's largest automaker, cited fans' intense interest surrounding the seven-month development effort behind the 400-horsepower concept car as an indication of potential demand from buyers.
But they said the company, which has been losing money and market share to rivals, had not yet decided whether to begin making the new Camaro. That production decision would hinge in part on the excitement generated by the new design, Bob Lutz, vice chairman of products, told reporters.
GM estimated 100,000 fans watched the Detroit unveiling via Webcast. It invited another 250 enthusiasts to watch in person. "It's like a cult out there," Lutz said of the Camaro fan base.
Restored, first-generation Camaros can fetch between $35,000 and $200,000, said Ed Welburn, vice president of global design for GM, whose own 1969 Camaro provided the launch pad for the rear-wheel drive concept design.
Lutz said GM could make the new Camaro profitably if it could sell between 150,000 and 160,000 of the cars each year.
A former Ford and Chrysler executive who came to GM four years ago, Lutz said U.S. automakers needed to roll out models with better fuel-efficiency and hybrid engines while still offering performance cars like the Camaro.
"It's two markets," Lutz said. "The whole country is schizophrenic."
As an example of the split in consumer thinking, Lutz said some Hollywood celebrities own both a Lamborghini Gallardo luxury sports car and a Toyota Prius hybrid.