WSJ Rips The Ford Flex a Fair and Balanced You-Know-What

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
wsj rips the ford flex a fair and balanced you know what

The Wall Street Journal's article on the new Ford Flex starts off as all these things do: a personal anecdote from an enthusiastic buyer, some spin from the marketing folk and… oh dear. Not such a happy picture after all. "The Flex isn't a miser on fuel, getting 17 miles per gallon in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. According to, the company has already put $1,315 in incentives on the Flex in July, a potentially worrisome development for a new vehicle. It is also unclear how the Flex will play with Ford's mainstream customers in the middle of the U.S. Many comments on car blogs have praised its design, but some have complained it resembles a hearse." And the hits keep happening. "Ford has said it expects to sell as many as 100,000 Flexes a year, but it will need to up the sales pace to achieve that. In June and July, the first two months it was on sale, 3,413 were sold. The Ford Explorer sport-utility vehicle can also seat seven; Ford sold 12,223 of them in June and July." The WSJ repeats Ford's claim that the "slow rollout has been by design" (why hurry?) and ends on the usual up note, relating CA IT maven Rueben Muinos' freshly-minted Flex appeal. "When he drove it home, he was surprised by how many people starred [sic]. "I thought I was talking on my cell phone illegally," he said, realizing only later that all eyes were on his Flex." We have no, well, little reason to believe Muinos was driving naked.

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  • RobertSD RobertSD on Aug 19, 2008
    @RF From a similar perspective, I would also say that some are misconstruing the effects of inventory ramp up, low incentive spend relative to the class, and low product recognition due to a slow ramp up in regional/national advertising as sales failure. Why don't we address the Flex, as I suggest above, at the end of the year once Ford has had the opportunity to stock its dealers and create some market buzz about the vehicle? All indications suggest that potential segment shoppers are really interested in it once they realize it exists. Ford hasn't gotten the vehicle to that level of recognition yet, though.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Aug 19, 2008

    This horse may have been beaten to death around here, but I am hearing a lot of points that follow the old tunes the 2.8 keep hearing. The reputation of the domestics is still haunting them pretty badly. People will often find things they don't like about them, and if nothing else works, they will tag the price as too high. I bet you could put a domestic label on a pre release product from a German or Japanese company you would get much worse reviews from consumers who would then place the value much lower than if it had the other maker's mark. I think it all goes back to the damage done to the brands by years of bad moves. Bankruptcy may allow them to lower costs, but that may still not be enough to overcome the bad reputations, silly depreciation, and poor corporate behavior.

  • David Thomas David Thomas on Aug 19, 2008

    RF: I only mentioned it for context. The days it takes to sell (not days on the lot mind you) isn't a bad indicator because it means there is an effort to keep production sensible to meet demand. Hmmm...who else does that? Anyway, this is a totally new model, new name (have to educate buyers) they haven't gotten production to 100% yet and it is outselling a lot of other models in a market that has been REALLY hard on family vehicles. And it is wrong for anyone to use June numbers since that wasn't its first full month of sales. July was. To say it is a failure at this point is a bit premature.

  • Akgay Akgay on Sep 02, 2008

    OK... our family of four just finished a week-long shopping marathon for a comfortable family hauler. The criteria were 6+ seats, better HWY mileage than my 97 Explorer (20 on the HWY), not a minivan, and had to fit in our 1942 garage (20x20 with 94 inch door openings). I'm the decision-maker (49), but my 14 year-old son had heavy input and then lesser input from wife and 11 year old daughter. I will be the primary driver. Price, as long as it was sub $50K, was something we were flexible on provided the price/value worked. So the Yukon/Tahoo hybrid was out, and the Sequoya couldn't make the mileage or price. We live in a toney part of inside-the-loop Atlanta, and so it wasn't hard to rule out the big GM SUV's... every housewife in sight drives one. The short list very quickly got down to the Flex, the GM quad (Acadia, prissy Enclave, Outlook, and boring Traverse), and the Pilot. And the winner in the end... going away... was the Flex in the 6 passenger config. We really really thought we would want the Enclave/Acadia, but in the end it died because it was just not as nice a ride as the Flex. Let me be specific. Even the 2009 GM, with 288 HP, really has to be kicked to get it to downshift when needed... (Atlanta is a very hilly place)... my wife called it a beast. The Flex needed occasional encouragement also, but was much more willing to take direction... didn't have to think about it like the GM. The GM just seemed to have no torque until 4000+ RPM. But the real killer were the middle seats. GM gives you a flat floor, but the space comes out of the seat height. So my son, at 5'10", sat there with his knees in his face. The seats do recline in 3 notches, which helped, but the second row captains seats in the flex, with a nice foot well that extends under the front seats, was like a limo... not even the same experience. So then we got to the back row, and the distance between the back row seat backs and the driver seat backs. Flex has 6" more than the GM, and 9" more than the Pilot, which translates into much more leg room for both second and third row seats. And since the Flex has you sitting with the bottom of your thighs actually on the seat cushion, it's just a very different feeling. Yes, the GM has a middle seat in the third row, and we thought long and hard about that, but decided that since 99% of the miles would be with four people or fewer, the seventh seat wasn't worth giving up all that comfort. Finally, the second row in the Flex tumbles forward, while the GM has four huge tracks that the middle seats slide forward in to allow entry into the back row. My wife HATED those tracks... pointing out that anything that hit the floor (ear ring, french fry, pocket change) would go straight into the tracks. I suggested they could be easily vacuumed, until I stuck my finger in and realized they are well-lubricated with grease in the bottom. What is that going to look like after a couple years of use? So the Pilot died first because the third row really isn't suitable for anything but pre-teens. The GMs had electro-folding mirrors, which I really like and need. The Flex mirrors are 88" across, and I've got a 94" door opening, but I decided it was worth slowing down in/out of the garage. The GM probably has a lot more electronic bells and whistles, but the Ford NAV system doesn't make you give up your radio control buttons on put them on the dang screen like the GM, and the DVD systems were equivalent. I'm sure Sync will be fun (we are getting the Lmtd version, so it's included), but it wasn't really a consideration. So when all that was evaluated, then we looked at price. At dealer cost less hold-backs, for comparably equipped units(meaning more or less fully tricked out), the Flex was $2k more than the Pilot and $4K less than the Acadia. Case closed. I could have reduced the Acadia by ditching its radio-stealing nav system, since the '09 does let you display the back-up camera in the rear view mirror, but in the end the kids said there was no comparison in middle and back seat comfort. If we had to have seven seats, we still might have wound up with the Flex with the 60/40 instead of captains seats in the second row. If we had to have eight, then the Flex of course would have been out. We decided on those rare occasions we need more than six, we will split up and bring along the TL. PS. One footnote on right-side visibility/blind spot. Nothing will ever be as easy to see out of as my '97 Explorer (unless someone still has their Pacer), but the Enclave was horrible, and the Pilot and Acadia only slightly better. I'm very sensitive to this one... all our intown driving once out of the neighborhood is on 6 lane interstates with everyone driving 80. The Flex wasn't great, but it was OK. With a quick glance I could pick up anything to the right, even with a passenger in the right-middle seat.