Ford Motor Co. will establish a center for diesel and advanced powertrain research in Windsor, ON, Canada.

Plans for the center, part of a joint venture with the Canadian federal government, were announced yesterday as a component of Ford’s Renaissance Project, which also will equip the auto maker’s Essex Engine Plant in Windsor with tooling capable of building any powertrain in Ford’s engine family, says Ford of Canada Ltd. spokeswoman Lauren More.

This affords Essex with the same capability as Ford plants in Cleveland and Lima, OH, More tells Ward’s.

“The new flexible manufacturing system at Essex Engine Plant will allow Ford to quickly adapt to changing market conditions,” the auto maker says in a statement.

“In addition, the new research centre will ensure that more of the future breakthroughs in environmentally friendly auto sector technologies will originate right here in Canada,” says Canadian Industry Minister Jim Prentice.

While the industry ministry’s statement mentions diesel technology, More acknowledges only that the site will be home to “advanced powertrain” development.

Ford is expanding diesel availability with the rollout of the ’10 Ford F-150 pickup. It is expected to be equipped with a 4.4L diesel engine built in Mexico.

Ford says it will invest $420 million in Essex Engine, on the heels of a $168 million outlay announced in March. The previous investment marked the first phase of an engine program the auto maker declines to identify.

The retooling will create 550 jobs.

The Canadian government adds C$80 million ($75.4 million). The Ontario provincial government previously contributed C$17 million ($16 million).

Ottawa’s announcement comes five months after Ontario’s and is one of three Wednesday announcements totaling more than C$100 million ($93.9 million) in commitments. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to call an election by Monday.