FRANKFURT - General Motors has spent $158 million upgrading its flagship Opel Omega for the 2000 model year.
The car - which debuted at the Frankfurt auto show - goes on sale this month.
'The new Omega will be marketed as an affordable luxury car with modern safety features, equipment and driver comfort,' said Omega brand manager Brigitte Kroll-Thaller.
Sales at the volume end of the full-sized segment have been declining. Ford dropped its Scorpio, but GM remains committed to its top-of-the-range European model.
'We are a volume manufacturer, and fleet buyers in particular expect to be able to buy a full range of cars from us,' said Kroll-Thaller.
The new Omega features changes to the exterior and interior styling, plus a new 2.2-liter gasoline engine, an upgraded suspension and safety improvements.
New equipment includes Saab's active head restraints and an intelligent climate-control system. The car features four airbags and three full seat belts in the rear.
Key changes to the Omega's exterior styling include headlamps with transparent lenses and new taillamps. The body shell, however, remains unchanged.
Inside, the cabin is more luxurious. It features better-quality upholstery fabrics and 'soft touch' surfaces. The steering wheel, instrument panel and center console have been redesigned, and storage space has been improved.
There is a choice of in-car communications modules. All can be operated by remote control from the steering wheel. Four equipment levels will be offered, and a sports chassis will be available.
Germany accounts for 50 percent of the current Omega's annual sales volume, while England makes up 25 percent. Other major markets for the car include Switzerland, the Netherlands and Belgium. GM expects to sell 70,000 Omegas in Europe in 2000. This year, GM will sell about 62,000 units.
The Omega made its debut in 1986. To date, 1.5 million units have been built on the original platform. Wagons should account for about 50 percent of new Omega sales, according to Opel.
Europe's full-sized segment accounts for sales of 800,000 units a year.