Michael Wayland| MLive

Today celebrated a “new era” for its assembly plant in Flat Rock, Mich.

The Dearborn-based automaker has assumed full management control over the newly renamed Flat Rock Assembly plant, which was previously known as AutoAlliance International under a joint venture with Mazda Motor Corp.

“This facility has a very unique past and it has produced a lot of important vehicles for two different companies at the same time,” said Ford President of the Americas Mark Fields at an event Monday morning outside the facility. “Just as proud we are about our heritage, we are even more excited about our future.”

Following the end of Mazda6 production last month, the plant will continue to produce Ford’s iconic Mustang before adding the 2013 Ford Fusion next year.

According to officials, the addition of the Fusion means a $555 million investment for the plant and a new second shift with 1,200 new employees. The plant currently employs about 1,700 workers.

The investment also means a flexible assembly line, which will allow the automaker to build nearly every type of vehicle at the facility without shutting down to retool, according to Jim Tetreault, Ford vice president of North American manufacturing.

“This plant has a very bright future,” Tetreault told the hundreds of plant workers who gathered outside the plant, adding the flexible line provide better job security.

Ford also plans to upgrade the plant’s paint shop with an environmentally friendly “Three-Wet” paint process. The Three-Wet process, which Ford is rolling out across more than 15 assembly plants globally, allows three layers of paint to be applied one after another while still wet, with less manual intervention, resulting in a superior product created with fewer pollutants and less expense.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, U.S. Rep John Dingell and United Auto Workers Vice President Jimmy Settles joined Ford officials at the event.

The plant, which has been a joint venture with Mazda since 1992, continues to be owned by a 50/50 split between Ford and Mazda. No Mazda vehicles will be produced at the facility, according to officials. The plant originally opened in 1987 as Mazda Motor Manufacturing USA.

Check back to MLive.com for more information.

Email Michael Wayland: MWayland@mlive.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MikeWayland
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