TRAVERSE CITY, MI – General Motors Corp. will build a production version of the Camaro concept that bowed at January’s North American International Auto Show, CEO Rick Wagoner confirms here at the Management Briefing Seminars.

After showing a clip of himself on the CBS news show “60 Minutes” broadcast some months ago saying “If we didn’t try to build this we might be brain dead,” Wagoner deadpans to the audience: “I guess this shows we’re not brain dead.”

The car will be designed in the U.S., engineered in Australia and built in North America. Production will begin near the end of 2008, and the car will go on sale in first-quarter 2009.

Wagoner would not specify the production site for the car but says it will be built in North America, adding that the customer does not care where a car is made.

GM’s Oshawa, Ont., Canada, plant widely is considered a favorite to land the program. In addition to the Canadian Auto Workers’ agreement to contract changes in March, the union reportedly is ready to offer 2,500 early retirement packages in Oshawa once confirmation is received the plant will build the car.

Asked to comment on a prediction by GM product chief Bob Lutz that production likely would be about 100,000 units, Wagoner says: “Bob is a pretty smart guy; that sounds good to me.”

The production car will be almost identical to the concept, which is a modern interpretation of the ’69 model, Wagoner emphasizes, adding it will be rear-drive, have an independent rear suspension and be available in a variety of models with a choice of manual and automatic transmissions and V-6 and V-8 engines.

Wagoner tells the audience his first car was a ’73 Camaro he bought for $3,500, money earned by cutting lawns at $2 apiece.

“That’s a lot of grass clippings,” he quips.

dwinter@wardsauto.com