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RIP Ford Flex

Easiest Vehicle To Live With Ever

Ford Winds Down Slow-Selling Flex  Ford just officially announced what the industry has known for years.  The Ford Flex has been discontinued following its eleven year run.  2019 is its last model year. You could tell the axe was about to fall.  Ford began de-contenting the Flex.  They dropped the white or silver roof option.  This was a defining feature of the vehicle.  They replaced the contrasting roof with a black accent sports appearance package that included murdered-out black wheels.  The much touted second row seat refrigerator was dropped from the option list.  These changes were probably to lower cost and complexity.

I owned two Flex models.  A 2009 Flex Limited and a 2011 Flex Limited with EcoBoost.  While the 2009 was an outstanding vehicle, the EcoBoost powertrain in the 2011 transformed the product.  It was extremely fun to drive.  It was one of those vehicles that you could just think of where you wanted to be on the freeway and, voila, you were there.

Both Flexes were bulletproof.  The only problem I ever had was an annoying squeak from the steering column cover.

Flex Was Terrific  What made the Ford Flex such a terrific vehicle?  It was easy to get into and out of.  The seat height was perfect.  Visibility was outstanding.  The second row seat was like a limousine.  The third row power-folded flat into the floor.  With all the seats folded, it was flat from the liftgate to the back of the front seats.  The only obstruction was the rear seat center console that included a refrigerator.

Half-Hearted Marketing  The styling of the Flex was controversial.  People either loved it or hated it.  Since production began just as the Great Recession began, it launched with a thud.  The product was great but it was a marketing disaster  Early television ads (of which there were few) showed the Flex in moody urban situations.  There were no people in the shots.  Viewers could not perceive its size.  Because of its boxy shape, many people thought it was the same size as the diminutive Scion xB of the time.  Wrong.  It was a big, cavernous vehicle.  It never sold very well; only 2,000 to 3,000 units a month.  There were two exceptions.  It sold very well in Southern California and Southeastern Michigan.  Southern Californians thought it looked like a surf wagon.  Southeastern Michiganders had ties to Ford and leased them or bought them on employee discounts.

Great Recession Blunted Launch  I tried to special order my first Flex on September 15, 2008.  This is what I use to remind me of the first day of the Great Recession.  The dealer refused to take a RETAIL order for the vehicle.  Even with $5,000 down he refused.  Maybe he thought the recession would scare me off and I would flake out on the order.  Or he thought the recession would last forever.  Two weeks later, a red Limited with a white roof appeared at the dealership and I leased that one for two years

During the next months, the auto industry was going through turmoil.  General Motors and DaimlerChrysler were forced into bankruptcy.  Ford weathered the storm.  At breakfast one Saturday morning an withered old guy said, “I love your truck!” “Why?” I asked.  “Ford didn’t take my money.”  I can’t count how many times I gave people a walkaround of that vehicle.  Pulling into a parking place at a local strip mall, two young girls said they really liked the truck.  A man standing nearby agreed.

It was unusual and head-turning.  Funny, when Ford managers are in Southern California, they always are in awe at how many Flexes they see rolling around.

I special-ordered my second Ford Flex.  It was a Kona blue Limited with a silver roof.  The EcoBoost powertrain was an expensive option but worth every penny.  Those days were before adopted the “democratization of technology” adage.  Cooled front seats were not available.  Cooled seats were saved for the Lincoln MKT.  Nor was blind spot monitoring.  Other than those two features that I really wanted, it was nicely equipped.

Mid-Cycle Freshening  There was a facelift to the front end styling somewhere around the 2014 model year.  It was too early to jump on the front running light fad, but I consider the original front end as better looking.  Ford’s press release on the demise of Flex crows about how innovative the interior style was, but even in the top of the line Limited, it was pretty lame.  The door trim panels were bulky and boxy; maybe to mimic the boxy exterior styling.  They never changed it through the life of the vehicle.

Launch and Leave  Ford sold about 300,000 Flexes during its eleven year run.  It should have sold much more.  Flex was a launch and leave product.  Once it launched, Ford, for all intents and purposes, gave up on it.

RIP Ford Flex.

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