By on July 22, 2008

OAKVILLE, ONTARIO, CANADA, June 3, 2008 - Mark Fields president of the Americas, Ford Motor Company at the employee celebration of the all new 2009 Ford Flex at the Oakville Assembly Plant. Photo by: Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co. (06/03/08)Our contacts at Ford tell us there's big trouble brewing for The Blue Oval Boys. Two independent sources report that FoMoCo is ceasing production of the fresh-out-of-the-box Flex in their Oakville, Ontario plant. Apparently, the factory has built some 13k xB-shaped CUVs since production began on June 3– and sold [a lot] less than a thousand. Our correspondent tells us "the 500 additional employees that they were hiring for a third shift have been canceled… The CAW [Canadian Autoworkers Union] is not too pleased." If true, Ford's beancounters will share their dismay; the automaker spent over $1b converting Oakville to, wait for it, flexible manufacturing. While we seek further confirmation, a TTAC tipster working at a supplier for the Ford Edge (also made in Oakville) says dropping sales are leading to a severe cutback. "Our schedulers are trying to get some hard numbers so they can work out our shifts." You want hard numbers? Although Edge sales are up 16.8 percent year-to-date, they fell off a cliff in June, down 19.9 percent. The same fate befell the Lincoln MKX (the Edge's twin under the skin), up 4.2 percent year-to-date, down a whopping 34 percent in June. We will keep you up-to-date with new info as we receive it. One thing is for sure: when Ford reports its financials on Thursday, there will be Hell to pay. [thanks to our sources]

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39 Comments on “News from the Front: Ford Stops Flex Production, Scales Back Edge...”


  • avatar
    hwyhobo

    Nice vehicle, but poor timing. Ford better start making small, fuel efficient cars fast, or the ground may cave in under their feet.

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    It’s too bad Ford can’t literally “scale down” Flex production and just start making the xB again. Those used to sell just fine. :)

  • avatar
    unleashed

    Ford’s never made the xB.
    Toyota did (does).

  • avatar
    RobertSD

    Well… they sold 1,700 or so in June. So, I’m not sure where less than 1,000 came from. Maybe in Canada? And production began on May 5th, not June 3rd. What happened to basic fact checking?

    The Edge I’m not that surprised about. The gas mileage isn’t that bad, but it’s not a seven seater, so a family will be hesitant to consider it an alternate to a minivan – and maybe not the best Explorer alternate, either. But considering Ford’s original sales goals were 100,000/year on the Edge, the fact that a bad month is 9,000 or so units isn’t terrible.

    Ford has two problems with the Flex. First, people are freaking out. Anything looking remotely like a thristy vehicle – the Flex, most minvans and cars like the Highlander, etc aren’t that thirsty, but look it – is being passed over. They only want Civics, Corollas and Focii. Second, you have the high price of entry. The Flex price is actually not more than any loaded minivan. BUT, it has no incentives on it yet. The Siennas in my Toyota-dominated area are carrying $2000 rebates and $3000 discounts from the dealers. I mean, holy crap, the auto business must really suck right now.

    Ultimately, after our histeria settles a litte, I expect Ford to hit its 75k unit goal. But… it’s better they stop producing than up incentives on a new vehicle ala Chrysler.

  • avatar
    Rix

    I think it was priced a bit high. At 40k well equipped it would fit in there better.A 40k ford would be a F250 or a special Mustang, not a daily driver. Still, Ford will move them eventually. And GM would produce 3 shifts a day and drop c-notes on the hood to move them, so by comparison Ford is in good shape.

  • avatar
    unleashed

    RobertSD wrote: “Ultimately, after our histeria settles a litte, I expect Ford to hit its 75k unit goal.”

    I’m sorry, do you really think that it will sell at such a volume???
    IMHO, FoMoCo will be lucky to move 20K units in its first year.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I don’t understand why Ford makes both the Edge and the Flex. In size and target market they seem very, very close. Then there is the Taurus X also in there somewhere … not to mention the Volvo XC90.

  • avatar
    NulloModo

    The summer is always slow for auto sales, so it is hard to get a firm idea of how a vehicle is going to do long term when it was launched not only during the summer, but also during a huge gas spike, and a generally sluggish economy.

    The Flex is a great vehicle. I had the opportunity to drive one for an extended period tonight (a lightly optioned SEL model) and if I could swing the payments, I would be very interested in buying one. The price is high for a Ford crossover, but it is less than an Expedition feature-for-feature, with a much nicer interior and a better driving experience. The trick is going to be getting customers to realize that…

    To that end, I do think that the Ford ‘Drive One’ ad campaign is one of the best on the market nowadays. Many people are quick to dismiss domestric products as inferior in all ways to the imports without any hard personal experience. Actually getting some hands on experience can do a lot to open your eyes to how far things have come.

  • avatar
    NulloModo


    John Horner Says:
    July 23rd, 2008 at 12:28 am

    I don’t understand why Ford makes both the Edge and the Flex. In size and target market they seem very, very close. Then there is the Taurus X also in there somewhere … not to mention the Volvo XC90.

    The Flex is a good bit larger than the Edge, it also seats seven vs. the Edge’s five, and has a tremendously upgraded interior.

    The biggest thing the Edge has going for it is more mainstream appealing style.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    The Flex is a joke. Just another failure on the D3 platform.

    Now, just sit back and wait for the Lincoln Taurus to fail. That will be the 8th vehicle to fail on the D3 platform.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    NulloModo:
    The price is high for a Ford crossover,

    It is not a crossover, it is a station wagon…and an overpriced one at that.

    Save your money, get a Taurus X. There is not one single reason that any reasonable person would buy a Flex over a Taurus X

  • avatar
    mel23

    They’ve hardly gotten to the dealers yet. I saw my first one last Friday. The salesman said they’d sold 2 sight unseen, and the buyers were very happy after their first drive. It’s way early to cut back due to poor sales it seems to me.

  • avatar

    unleashed Ford’s never made the xB. Nowhere does it say they did. The reference was to the way the Flex looks ("xB-shaped"). RobertSD Well… they sold 1,700 or so in June. So, I’m not sure where less than 1,000 came from. Maybe in Canada? Actually, according to the Automotive News Data Center, they sold 1,379 in June. The "less than 1,000" came from the insider who passed this information to us. He may be referring to sales in July, which industry analysts are already predicting will be as bad as, if not worse than, June. And production began on May 5th, not June 3rd. I don't know where you got May 5th from. From Detroit News, Wednesday June 4: "OAKVILLE, Ontario — Ford Motor Co. officially launched its new Ford Flex crossover here Tuesday [June 3]" And from a Ford press release: " OAKVILLE, ont., June 3, 2008 – Further building its strength in the rapidly growing crossover vehicle market, Ford Motor Company today announced the production launch of the 2009 Ford Flex at the Ford Oakville Assembly Complex (OAC)." What happened to basic fact checking? I dunno. You tell me?

  • avatar
    larryken

    I saw my first Flex on the road today near Boston, where it seems foreign cars predominate. This is truly a big vehicle and I was shocked at its size. I thought a two thirds size version that added 10mpg across the board would probably sell but not this monster.

  • avatar
    fisher72

    To me the catch of the Flex is: 7 seat capacity.

    What other cars out there any smaller has this? We know of ones much bigger that do…

    If you are a 5-7 people family you don’t have a lot of options. It might be biggish, but small compared to SUV’s or having to drive the family in 2 cars.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    .
    I think the Flex, Edge and MKX will do fine for Ford once people get over their freak-out about high gas prices.

  • avatar
    toxicroach

    Maybe people will get over it.

    But you not only have high gas prices, you have houses dropping in value, a general economy that is teetering on the edge of a recession (or already in it), and a credit crunch. That’s a lot of freakout, especially for the type of person who has the means to drop 40k on a vehicle (but not enough to get a lexus or mercedes suv), and who needs 7 seats (lots of mouths to feed). They are probably watching their 401k and house equity shrink and are worrying about their jobs.

    In other words, its a really bad time to try to get them to pony up lots of money for a vehicle that isn’t going to provide any relief at the pump.

  • avatar
    ash78

    The Flex idea seems fundamentally sound, but…that design has got to rob a good 3-4mpg at cruising speed. Someone, somewhere hopefully looked at the tradeoff in potential sales between the gains of a raked front end vs. the “cool design” of the boxcar front end. And they probably made this assessment when gas was $2.00 a gallon.

    Second to that, looking at the S-Max or Galaxy minivans–the latter of which seats seven adults in relative comfort–there are a lot more efficient ways to use space and fuel economy to move seven people around town. But, arguably, styling would have to be compromised.*

    *I think the S-Max and Galaxy are very good looking, personally.

  • avatar
    serpico

    Well it was on the Global news here and they stated Ford sold only 500 out of the 13000 they made. Fired the 3rd shift as they were going to start on Monday. Pretty sad.

  • avatar

    P71_CrownVic Says: The Flex is a joke. Just another failure on the D3 platform. Now, just sit back and wait for the Lincoln Taurus to fail. That will be the 8th vehicle to fail on the D3 platform.

    Beat me to it. The “D3 curse” continues with no end in sight. Nobody wants a big car/CUV right now, and anything shaped like a gigantic brick will fail. I guess nobody figured out that the market is so saturated that a unique offering like the Flex makes it a niche car only.

    Since P71 has such a unique name, I’ll take it another step: I bet the fleet-only Police Intercepter sells as well as the Flex, maybe as well as he Flex + Taurus.

    Frank? Got any sales figures for that?

  • avatar
    NickR

    I drive past the Ford plant that makes these with some frequency. There is a veritable Flex ocean surrounding the plant. They seem to be running out of places to put them. So, a slowdown in production is not surprising. Pity, from everything I’ve read, it’s a good vehicle.

  • avatar
    thetopdog

    P71_CrownVic Says: The Flex is a joke. Just another failure on the D3 platform. Now, just sit back and wait for the Lincoln Taurus to fail. That will be the 8th vehicle to fail on the D3 platform.

    I thought you were exaggerating when you said the MKS will be the 8th vehicle to fail on the D3 platform, but you might have actually been understating how many vehicles have failed to meet sales expectations on this platform:

    1)Volvo S80
    2)Ford Five Hundred
    3)Mercury Montego (or whatever the Five Hundred clone was called)
    4)Ford Freestyle
    5)Ford Taurus
    6)Mercury Sable
    7)Ford Taurus X
    8)Ford Flex
    9)Lincoln MKS

    I’m not sure if the Volvo S80 and/or Taurus X technically count, but that is a lot of cars that haven’t done well using what is supposedly a very decent platform

  • avatar
    Wulv

    Frank:
    They HAVE been producing the Flex long before they announced it to the world. I drove by the Oakville factory many a time before June to see a fairly full lot of Flex’s out back. I have family that live down the street, the QEW goes right by the factory.
    I believe Unleashed was making a comment about the post above his, not the article. SO when you say ” Nowhere does it say …” You would be incorrect, The very post he/she was answering DOES say…

  • avatar
    86er

    Send them to Western Canada, we’re buying anything with wheels these days.

  • avatar
    ethermal

    My opinion is that it’s more of a trend (on to the new next best thing) then true gas mileage concerns. I don’t think gas pricing alone killed the SUV I think it is attitudes towards them that have changed (to the worst). I think the bad attitude is being thrown at anything that looks remotely like a SUV.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m not sure if the Volvo S80 and/or Taurus X technically count, but that is a lot of cars that haven’t done well using what is supposedly a very decent platform

    I can understand the S80 not selling (it’s not that good, frankly, next to it’s competition), but the others are actually quite good. The problem is threefold:
    * They’re expensive cars, and Ford doesn’t seem to give much in the way of price.
    * Other than Consumer Reports, reviewers have panned them.
    * Most importantly, Ford can’t market it’s way out of a wet paper bag.

  • avatar
    RobertSD

    @ FrankWilliams

    Ha! I’m dislexic or something. I saw 1,379 and read it as 1,739. Sorry about that. The point is still valid.

    As for the May 5th. Automotive News has 59 Flexes produced the first week of May – the first official week of Job1. These wouldn’t be pre-production units either if they’re recorded as produced units. The month of May was slow ramp up, but they were in production the entire month.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Stopped production? My understanding was that they just cancelled an additional shift that they had not even implemented yet.

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    Sajeev Mehta:
    Since P71 has such a unique name, I’ll take it another step: I bet the fleet-only Police Intercepter sells as well as the Flex, maybe as well as he Flex + Taurus.

    As it stands so far this year, the Taurus is (finally) beating the Crown Vic in sales (31,916 VS. 27,440), but only by 4476 units. The Grand Marquis is STILL spanking the Sable to no end. So far this year, the Sable has mustered only 9,426 sales while the Grand Marquis has sold 16,741. A difference of 7,315. And guess which ones Ford makes more money on??? The frequently changed D3 cars or the ‘hardly-changed-in-10-years’ Panthers?

    I have been told by people that work at the ST. Thomas assembly plant that they can put a Panther car (Crown Vic, Grand Marquis, Town Car) together for between $9K and $12K. So even at the average $18,000 fleet price, Ford is making between $6K and $9K on each car.

    I doubt Ford has recouped their initial costs from the Five Hundred/Montego/Freestyle, let alone the Taurus/Taurus X/Sable/Lincoln Taurus/Flex…

  • avatar
    peteinsonj

    Its truly a hideous vehicle.

    Based on looks alone, a few will think its unique — but most will realize its ugly.

    This is NOT like the Taurus — whose jelly bean shape inspired a generation of cars.

    This is plain ugly.

    /p

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Ford is a damaged brand. If the Flex was built by Honda or Toyota it would be a hit.

  • avatar

    “To me the catch of the Flex is: 7 seat capacity. What other cars out there any smaller has this?”

    Well the Flex is about 17′ long(only 3″ shorter than the Expedition), so pretty much all of the 1-2′ shorter midsized crossovers and wagons with 3rd rows meet this criteria: XC90, Sante Fe, Highlander, etc.

  • avatar
    rtz

    I’m pretty sure the local Ford dealer still has all 4 of it’s initial allotment of Flex vehicles still sitting out front(priced above MSRP?). Have yet to see one on the streets.

    Ford wanted to do their own version of the Pontiac Aztec and they succeeded!

    Just like when Honda hit the cocaine too hard one night and built their own Avalanche clone.

    And then Toyota had to build a billion dollar truck plant in Texas and build huge trucks. Can’t get a useful crew cab dually diesel model to haul anything meaningful with though.

    http://www.bolthitch.com/images/Take-3-truck.jpg

  • avatar
    300six

    Punchline: There’s a Ford Flex commercial being filmed in front of my apartment complex in midtown Atlanta right now (July 23 10:00PM EST). I already overheard a few restaurant valet guys saying the car sucked anyway, and that “its not even a hybrid.”

    P71_Crown Vic:
    ‘hardly-changed-in-10-years’ Panthers?

    How about ‘occasionally-updated-over-30-years’?

    D3’s can come and go, but the Panther platform paid for itself during the Reagan Administration – long live the CV/GM/TC’s of the past 3 decades!

  • avatar

    P71_CrownVic Says: I doubt Ford has recouped their initial costs from the Five Hundred/Montego/Freestyle, let alone the Taurus/Taurus X/Sable/Lincoln Taurus/Flex…

    Your numbers sound right, and factor in the costs of retooling both the Chicago and Oakville for D3s and it looks really, really ugly.

    IIRC, the Chicago retool was $800,000,000 and Oakville (according to this blog) is a cool billion.

    Maybe they should have retooled them for Panthers instead. (kidding…I think)

  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    P71_Crown Vic:
    ‘hardly-changed-in-10-years’ Panthers?

    How about ‘occasionally-updated-over-30-years’?

    D3’s can come and go, but the Panther platform paid for itself during the Reagan Administration – long live the CV/GM/TC’s of the past 3 decades!

    AMEN BROTHER!!!!!!

  • avatar
    armadamaster

    Well said 300six, Sajeev Mehta, & P71_Crown Vic!

    Correct all on counts about the pitiful D3s and the venerable Panthers.

    You would think Ford would learn their lesson on this but I guarantee you there will be another D3 experient down the pipe while the Panthers rot on the vine.

    Ford is rivaling GM now for redundancy in their SUV offerings, not a good thing.

  • avatar
    Steve_S

    What were Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna sales figures for the month? Or Acadia/Outlook sales? Look at those and compare, then you can make an assessment as to how it’s doing in the marketplce.

  • avatar
    OAC_Sparky

    Funny, I actually work at the plant that builds the Edge and Flex. We’re still building Flexes, production is being adjusted to account for the market in general being slow and primarily from falling Edge sales.

    The author of this article either needs more knowledgeable sources or a new crystal ball.


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