He said: 'This car shows we are moving in a good direction toward making the second 100 years of Vauxhall even better than the first. I've been taking a look at what this company is doing for the future and I'm very excited about it,' said Wagoner after helping Vauxhall managing director Kevin Wale take the wraps off the car.
The VX Lightning is a roadster powered by a supercharged version of the 2.2-litre engine from the Ellesmere Port factory that will build the next-generation Astra alongside the Vectra range from next year.
'This is a concept we would all like to see on the production line – but if it doesn't get that far, we will use many of the ideas it incorporates,' Wagoner said.
Earlier, he had cited the Signum and the VX220 Turbo as representing the new sense of urgency and focus on innovation at GM, the world's biggest car manufacturer.
He said: 'We know in the UK, you need a different driving experience. Narrow, winding lanes call for tighter suspension, more responsive steering and greater agility. You also want cars that look like they're moving even when they are standing still.
'The bottom line is that for GM, it's all about great cars. You can't win in this business with products that people are willing to settle for – you win with cars that offer something extra, the kind of cars that people just can't wait to drive.'
Created in only five months by GM Europe head of design Martin Smith and Simon Cox, director of the company's advanced design studio in the Midlands, the Lightning is aimed at giving Vauxhall a more upmarket image in the showrooms.
But the chances of the six-speed, classic rear-drive roadster ever going on sale depend on the success of the Solstice, another concept sports car unveiled under the Pontiac banner at the Detroit Motor Show in 2001.
Wale said: 'A decision on the Solstice is due later this year, and that will be important for us because the Lightning shares its platform. If it gets the go-ahead, that would help make the case for this car entering production. I'd love to see it as a rival for the Honda S2000.
'This car says everything about where Vauxhall is heading. It represents a return to our early performance roots when the company was famous for making the Prince Henry – the first true British sports car – while we continue to be innovative and bold in exterior and interior design.
'We see it as moving us on from the VX220 by being more sophisticated and if it did go on sale at under £30,000, it would fit well with our rationale of providing affordable and exciting transport.'
Riding on alloy wheels sized at 19 inches at the front and 20 inches at the rear, the Lightning saves weight by using composite for its bodywork and aluminium for suspension parts. With a long bonnet and short rear overhang, it boasts 50-50 weight distribution for optimum handling. The car's modified, 2,200cc aluminium engine develops 240bhp and 225lb-ft torque. Weighing 1,318kg, it is 4,100mm long, 1,808mm wide and 1,140mm high.