TURIN — General Motors Corp. is reversing an earlier decision not to fit GM's 5-speed automatic to the European Omega. As the second of two major engineering revisions to the Omega range in 2001, Opel/Vauxhall now intends to slot the Strasbourg, France, sourced 5L40-E automatic into the car in August 2001, as the most significant component of the '02 model year change.

When Opel/Vauxhall launched the face-lifted Omega in late 1999, observers were surprised that the 5-speed auto had been ignored in favor of the old 4-speed. GM first showed the new electronically-controlled gearbox in 1997 but has yet to fit it to any of its own cars.

Instead, it currently sells the unit at the rate of 150,000 a year to BMW AG for various 3- and 5-series models. GM's German engineering center now is working on an upgraded automatic transmission, known internally as 5L50-E, primarily intended for high-torque diesel engines.

The first '01 Omega change takes place early next year. Both V-6 engines are enlarged to improve torque, rather than a significant increase in outright horse power and fuel consumption. The 2.5L goes out to 2.6L, while the 3.0L grows to 3.2L. GM hopes the changes will keep the Omega competitive until it's replaced by a new, Vectra-based, front-wheel-drive model in late 2002.

Opel/Vauxhall originally intended the revised engines to appear as part of the '99 model facelift but development problems forced their postponement.