Ford Motor Co. today announces a $600 million investment in its Louisville, KY, assembly plant to accommodate production of the next-generation Escape cross/utility vehicle.

Planned modifications at the facility include new tooling, body-shop equipment and various other upgrades, the auto maker says. Construction will begin later this month.

The modifications will transform the facility into a “modern, flexible facility,” the auto maker says, noting it will be the third North American body-on-frame truck plant that it has retooled to enable production of fuel-efficient products based on global platforms.

With the new technology, the plant will be able to build up to six different vehicles at the same time, allowing Ford to meet demand more quickly in response to changing consumer preferences.

“Manufacturing flexibility is a key to competiveness, and we are continually exploring ways to raise the bar in this critical area of business,” Jim Tetreault, vice president of North America manufacturing, says in a statement.

The plant last built the current-generation body-on-frame Explorer SUV, production of which is scheduled to end next week. Output of the new unibody ’11 Explorer now is under way at Ford’s Chicago assembly plant.

When the transformed Louisville facility restarts production next year, it will operate on two shifts with about 2,900 employees, up from a single shift that employed 1,100 workers.

The 1,800 additional jobs will be filled through a combination of transferring employees from other Ford facilities, activating workers on indefinite layoff and hiring new workers, the auto maker says.

Ford is mum on details of the next-generation Escape, but various reports indicate it will be based on the Ford Kuga CUV, currently sold in European markets.

The auto maker says a concept vehicle to be shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month will “signal the future direction” of the next-generation Escape.