(Reuters) - Ford Motor Co marked the upgrade of its Louisville, Kentucky, assembly plant on Wednesday where it has invested $600 million to add 3,100 jobs to make the new Escape small SUV.
Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields said the transformation of the Louisville plant "illustrates how Ford is going further, continuing to invest in American manufacturing and new jobs" as it makes more fuel-efficient vehicles like the Escape.
The Louisville plant opened in 1955 and the upgraded plant has been shipping the new Escape for about a month.
Ford has already added 1,800 of the hourly jobs at the plant, and will add another 1,300 more when the plant's third shift begins work by the end of this year.
Ford said it has added more than 5,200 hourly paid jobs in the United States this year and when the Louisville plant's third shift goes to work, more than half of the 12,000 new U.S. hourly jobs it committed to add by 2015 will be on the payroll. Ford made that commitment in early 2011.
The Louisville plant's total hourly employment by this year's end will be 4,200, Ford said.
The upgraded plant is more flexible, able to produce up to six different vehicles at the same time, making it one of the company's most flexible U.S. assembly factories, Ford said.
The flexibility will allow Ford to adjust production to market changes, said Jim Tetreault, the company's vice president of North American manufacturing.
Reporting by Bernie Woodall