Installation of equipment at a new Fiat-General Motors transmission plant in Russelsheim, Germany, has begun with the arrival of the first production machines for six-speed manual gearboxes.

Opel Powertrain GmbH is investing about $US85 million in the latest plant and technology.  Series production of the newly developed transmission is scheduled to start at the end of 2002 and the plant's capacity will be 230,000 transmissions per year.

 The newly developed gearbox is a particularly compact unit, suitable for front-wheel drive vehicles manufactured by Vauxhall, Opel, Fiat, Saab, Lancia and Alfa Romeo, with either spark-ignition or diesel engines.

 This is the first major investment undertaken by the alliance between General Motors and Fiat Auto in Germany, which came into force almost a year ago and combines the two corporations' engine and transmission development and production in Europe and South America into a single joint venture known as FIAT-GM Powertrain.