ANAHEIM, CA – The ’06 Pontiac Torrent cross/utility vehicle, which sources inside General Motors Corp. confirm here at the California International Auto Show, will begin production at CAMI Automotive Inc. in June, Ward’s learns.

GM is not saying where the Torrent will be built but likely will provide more details when it unveils the CUV in January at the Los Angeles auto show.

“The Torrent represents a new dimension of Pontiac’s commitment to ‘total performance,’” says Jim Bunnell, Pontiac-GMC general manager. “Along with a spirited powertrain and a crisp handling package rarely seen in a compact SUV, the Torrent adds a degree of flexibility and spaciousness designed to meet the needs of owners with active lifestyles.”

Pontiac doesn’t say what vehicle architecture will provide the basis for the Torrent, but it does say the CUV will be built on a front-wheel/all-wheel-drive platform and be powered by a 185-hp 3.4L V-6 engine. The Chevrolet Equinox, which went on sale earlier this year, is equipped with the same engine and drivetrain configuration. CAMI, a joint venture between GM and equity partner Suzuki Motor Corp., builds the Equinox and has plenty of extra capacity for additional products.

The Pontiac Torrent will be built at CAMI.

Canadian Auto Workers union members signed a new local contract at CAMI Sept. 19 that included a $100 million investment in the plant, Ward’s has learned.

Contractors have been installing new equipment for Torrent production inside the factory for at least four months, sources say. Torrent production equipment is scheduled to be fully installed next month, with trial production beginning in December. Early salable model builds will get under way in March before the start of official production begins in June, sources tell Ward’s.

A GM Canada spokesman declines to comment on the new CUV’s production location.

But sources say the Torrent will be assembled in an area of the CAMI plant separate from the Equinox. A 3.9L engine option will be added at a later date, a source says.

Torrent pricing will be disclosed closer to introduction.

There has been widespread speculation a Suzuki CUV would be built alongside the Torrent at CAMI, which previously assembled the Vitara compact SUV for the Japanese auto maker. Suzuki executives told Ward’s in August the company was leaning towards using a GM architecture for its Vitara replacement. (See related story: Suzuki Going Unibody on Pair of CUVs)

A source tells Ward’s the additional products could add as many as 500 jobs at CAMI over the next two years.

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com