The Chevrolet Camaro represents the tip of the iceberg.

GM’s decision to put the concept into production adds credibility to a number of trends, while confirming speculation.

For starters, it signifies the resurgence of the muscle car is a bona fide trend.

Ford gets credit for fueling pony car fever with the ’05 Mustang that has been a success since its introduction in fall 2004 and has sold more than 100,000 this year. To counter Ford’s dark horse, Chrysler announced it will build the Dodge Challenger coupe, starting in April 2008, as an ’08 model.

That puts the ’09 Camaro last to the party, debuting in early 2009.

GM originally got into muscle cars in the 1960s, at least two years after Ford introduced the Mustang in 1964, and still sold almost 700,000 Camaros in the first three years.

GM product chief Bob Lutz estimates the sports car segment to be in the 300,000-400,000 range today, and expects the new Camaro to grab at least 100,000 sales annually.

News the Camaro will be built in Oshawa, Ont., Canada, has the Canadian workforce exuberant because they know the niche vehicle is but the teaser. More importantly, it means Oshawa has been selected to build a lineup of cars from GM’s pending Global Rear-Wheel-Drive Architecture, expected to spawn as many as 500,000 units a year.

Formerly known as Zeta, this architecture should underpin everything from a larger, next-generation Chevy Impala and Monte Carlo to a G8 sedan for Pontiac and possible revival of the GTO or Firebird nameplates, as well as a replacement for the Buick Park Avenue.

Greenlighting the Camaro also cements the resurgence of RWD passenger cars in North America, a segment some forecast to exceed 1 million vehicles by 2011.

Ward’s data shows sales of RWD sedans increased 10.5% in 2005 and market share increased half a point. Both metrics are expected to grow.

Chrysler re-ignited acceptance of domestic RWD cars with the gutsy move to switch its front-wheel-drive large sedans to RWD in 2004.

The all-new ’05 Chrysler 300 went into production in 2004 and never looked back. The LX RWD platform produced 319,721 vehicles in North America in 2005 – more than double the 140,349 large cars Chrysler built in 2003, the last full year of output of the LH FWD family of cars.

Cadillac also systematically has been switching its sedans back to their RWD roots, making it a comeback marque at GM.

German luxury brands have adhered steadfastly to RWD for their performance cars, and some Asian auto makers are looking to get in the game.

Ford says it is not a “one-trick pony,” vowing to make Mustang news annually, including a consumer version of the GT-H (Rent-a-Racer) to be called the Ford Shelby GT, due this year.

The Camaro may be more of a niche player, but what it signals to the world about muscle cars, future plans for GM and the fortunes of RWD cars in general, speaks volumes.

apriddle@wardsauto.com