General Motors Corp. announced today it will cease building Saturns at the end of the ’09 model year instead of 2011 as it had said in its previous viability plan.

GM is scheduling conference calls with Saturn dealers this afternoon to update them on plans to help the brand survive.

Saturn is one of the brands GM has targeted to either sell or close in the near future, which also include Hummer, Saab and Pontiac.

However, sources tell Ward’s the Treasury Dept., based on recommendations from President Obama’s automotive task force, has decided to allow Saturn to survive provided a sale can be completed by the end of the year, at the latest.

GM will tell Saturn dealers today it will accept “expressions of interest” from potential buyers through June 1. It likely will not name any of the parties that have expressed interest already on today’s calls.

Although GM will build Saturns only through this model year, it may provide contract manufacturing for another year depending on the sale and the buyer.

Sources also have told Ward’s that Renault SA has emerged as a possible, and perhaps most likely buyer for Saturn.

cbanks@wardsauto.com