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GENEVA – The upcoming Chevrolet Camaro muscle car will be sold in Europe, General Motors Corp. officials reveal at the auto show here.

Introduction of the Camaro will “fast follow” its U.S. market debut, set for 2009, GM Europe President Carl-Peter Forster says.

GM executives also confirm the Chevrolet HHR retro-styled cross/utility vehicle is a candidate for Europe.

Chevrolet sales in Europe rose 15% last year to 340,000 units, but GM CEO Rick Wagoner is hesitant to predict the outlook for the brand this year.

“If you look back five years ago, (Chevrolet has) grown faster than our expectation,” Wagoner says. “Part of it is because countries like Russia have grown way faster than our expectations would have been.”

He says GM has been able to manage the growth thanks to a good product source (South Korea’s GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.), which he says is very cost efficient. “The distribution network has responded very well, too,” he adds.

GM also rolled out a new diesel engine for the Cadillac CTS in Europe, but again Wagoner is cautious about making growth predictions.

“We’re really trying to resist Cadillac pushing the sales numbers,” he says. “We know it’s going to be a long-term run. The luxury competition here is very tough. We’re going to gradually be able to cover broader pieces of the market.

“It’s going to grow, but we’re going to be patient about it,” he adds. “I’m not going to put a number out that you guys can hang me on later.”

GM has said the new diesel won’t come to North America, but Bob Lutz, vice chairman-global product development, notes the powerplant potentially could fit with the auto maker’s new Zeta-based rear-drive platform that will spawn the Camaro and several other models.

Meanwhile, Wagoner says he has “no need to comment on” any potential dealings with Chrysler Group.

GM and DaimlerChrysler AG have confirmed discussions but have not revealed the nature of the talks, though DC CEO Dieter Zetsche told reporters in Geneva they concern product collaboration, particularly involving SUVs.

“I talk to many leaders in the auto industry on relevant topics, so as a practice I don’t comment on those,” Wagoner says of GM’s dealings with Chrysler.

Also, Wagoner says GM will import the Opel Astra to the U.S. for Saturn for the lifespan of the new generation.

“We’re going to import (the Astra) for awhile and see how that goes,” he says. “We have no plans (to build the car in the U.S.) with this generation of the product.”

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com