By on November 1, 2016

2016 Ford Flex Limited Exterior Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars

For the second time in a month, a union official’s loose lips has spilled information on a looming change in Ford’s lineup, only this time the product news isn’t an addition — it’s a funeral.

Yes, if the report is true — and Ford isn’t confirming it — the mighty Ford Flex will bow out of existence in 2020, leaving fans of the polished brick heartbroken. Still, there’s a mystery as to the fate of its leviathan-like platform mate, the Lincoln MKT.

The juicy tidbit of product info came last night after Ford Canada sealed a tentative contract agreement with autoworkers’ union Unifor.

The deal means $700 million in investments in the automaker’s Canadian operations, mainly in its two Windsor, Ontario engine plants, but also at its Oakville assembly plant. That plant builds the Ford Edge and Flex, as well as the Lincoln MKX and MKT.

According to the Windsor Star, Bob Scott, vice-chair of the union’s master bargaining committee, claimed that the Flex would be discontinued in 2020. Some of Ford’s investment will go towards a future refresh of its Edge and MKX models.

Ford doesn’t like discussing future product plans, so we’re left with the union’s claim — no doubt drawn from its discussions with Ford officials during this latest round of bargaining. A UAW member in Michigan spilled the beans about the return of the Ford Ranger and Bronco in late September.

While no one can call the Flex a strong seller, it remains a consistent one. The Blue Oval sold 19,570 of them last year, down from the model’s 2009 high of 38,717, but not wildly far off the tally of the previous four years. This year’s sales seem poised to top last year’s number by a small amount. Still, it’s a niche vehicle that Ford doesn’t need, given its market overlap with the Explorer, Expedition and Expedition XL.

While they were all to ready to mention the Flex’s demise, not a word was spoken of the fate of the MKT. Lincoln’s full-size crossover has seen its sales tank pretty bad this year, and, somewhat oddly, it’s almost nonexistent in the country that builds it. In 2015, Lincoln moved 4,696 MKTs in the U.S., and 217 in Canada. That’s a far cry from its best sales year, 2010, where Americans bought 7,435 MKTs and the Canadians 922, but this year looks even worse.

From New Year’s to the end of September, Lincoln logged 2,955 MKT sales in the U.S. and — get ready — just 87 in Canada. The MKT is as rare as an albino moose. In September, a total of three MKTs rolled off dealer lots north of the border.

If the Ford Flex has a date with the afterlife, will the MKT go the same route, or will it retain the platform and adopt a new, more popular personality? The latter option seems unlikely, as Ford plans to switch the Explorer from the D4 platform (which also underpins the Flex and MKT) to the CD6 platform in 2019.

[Image: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars]

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106 Comments on “Ford is Going to Kill the Flex, but What about the Lincoln MKT?...”


  • avatar
    Adam Tonge

    Noooooooooo

  • avatar
    zamoti

    If the MKT didn’t have that nutbag swoopy roofline that makes the 3rd row darn near useless, it might have sold a few more. What’s the point of a three-row car if you can’t actually use the 3rd row? Nobody expects it to be luxurious back there, but it should fit an adult now and again. I ALMOST got my wife to bite on one, she liked the interior and the drive, but refused because of the tiny 3rd row. This is how we ended up with a Navigator L.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      We basically treat our MkT has a four passenger vehicle (we have the captains chairs). The rear seats haven’t been raised. I wish I could just pull them out.

    • 0 avatar
      olivebranch2006

      Same here. I liked test driving the MKT and took the Wife for a test drive. The third row and trunk space just didn’t make sense for our family needs. Not enough room for an adult so our older kids and grand parents wouldn’t fit. We also bought a new 2015 Navigator L base model 4×4 in white platinum with a sunroof. Been very happy with it but it would be fun to drive something that doesn’t drive like a truck. Then again we have a 2011 F250 super duty crew cab 4×4 diesel and the lincoln rides much smoother and handles better. The claim that “it drives like a truck” wouldn’t agree with me :)
      Enjoy your Navi!

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    Expedition EL, not XL.

    I’m not surprised at this news. I wish the Flex had been more successful, taking the family hauler market from Explorer and thus allowing it to have been based on the Everest.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Fleet would be the only reason it would be kept, and I would think Navi would just be used instead.

  • avatar
    dwford

    It’s easy. The Flex goes away, but Ford adds the Bronco and the Ecosport. The MKT goes away, but a new Aviator is spawned on the next gen Ford Explorer chassis.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    flips table and walks away

  • avatar
    Scoutdude

    Sad news but I doubt there is a single sole who actually knows it is still made that is surprised, I’ve been expecting to hear that this is the last year for several years now.

  • avatar
    CombiCoupe99

    They won’t kill the MKT – there isn’t a fleet-car ugly enough to replace it. Fleet cars are SUPPOSED to be difficult to look at – they can be uncool without worry – that is their job…

  • avatar
    mikey

    Just to set the record straight . I know that a lot of things have changed , since the last day I punched the clock. However I can just about guarantee , that management does not share confidential information with union officials.

    The decision to axe the Flex was no doubt made months ago. They brought that decision to the bargaining table. At that point , it became public knowledge .

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    2020 is a way off yet, so don’t weep yet. I never liked the Flex, anyway.

  • avatar
    pmirp1

    How can we call a vehicle that sells less than Chevy Corvette in one year (last year and this year) in a sizzling SUV market a success? This thing should have been retired couple years ago. It was a gimmick, and as gimmicks tend to do, it worked a little at the beginning. It is too low and long to be a SUV. It is some strange station wagon thing that wants to be a SUV. It never works in a CITY. NEVER. Ford made the right decision, only hope they retire it sooner.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      “It never works in a CITY. NEVER.”

      Do feel free to explain how it works in a city any differently than any of the other millions of SUVs and CUVs each year which proceed to work within cities.

      • 0 avatar
        pmirp1

        CoreyDL, one huge reason for SUV’s success in cities, is you can see over cars when riding/driving in a SUV. This thing takes away that huge advantage of a SUV. The ride height also gives a sense of security and safety in traffic next to other cars and other SUVs/Trucks. Flex missed on all these counts

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          So then sedans don’t work in cities, nor do coupes, convertibles, hatchbacks? Your only defense for an SUV “working” in a city is the ride height?

          • 0 avatar
            pmirp1

            CoreyDL, discussion is not about sedans or coupes (which by the way are losing marketshare every day). Discussion is about why Ford is killing Flex, yet Explorer and Edge are thriving. SUVs are killing sedans/coupes/… because of ride height in cities. Women who are a huge segment buying these vehicles feel safe with a ride height above cars and at same level as trucks. Which this FLEX doesn’t have.

        • 0 avatar
          spookiness

          The tall chair height, tall roof, square doors, and low floor is the main reason I might get one to haul my disabled & obese boomer folks to the doctors now that they’re increasingly not doing it. Now I just need to convince them to ditch the Outback.

        • 0 avatar
          Drzhivago138

          The ride height of a Flex is 1″ shorter than an Explorer, and still taller than most any sedan.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      It was never advertised as an SUV.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      pmirp1-

      Your opinion is bad.

      What 7-passenger CUV works in a city? Size wise, there is little difference between the Flex and Explorer/Traverse/Enclave/Highlander/Pilot/Pathfinder. The Flex accomplishes the same tasks as those vehicles within basically the same footprint (some are shorter, some are longer. all between 68″-71″ tall). The Flex isn’t selling well for a few reasons:

      1) The Explorer now exists and it conquers all
      2) Styling
      3) The 3.5TT and high trims are now available on the Explorer

      The Flex stayed alive for so long because it conquested affluent buyers that had never thought of purchasing a Blue Ovaled vehicle before, did well in California, and has average transaction prices much higher than the segment average. It’s been a profitable vehicle for Ford that deserves praise and should not be labeled a gimmick.

      This is a great example of why manufacturers don’t try creative and new things. Ford builds the Flex and MkT (both concepts were widely lauded), and they never have great sales success. They crib a Land Rover design, give it an Explorer nameplate, and make it worse in most objective ways and can’t build enough of them.

      • 0 avatar
        pmirp1

        Adam Tonge, my opinion is corroborated by Ford when Ford decided to stop building this thing. So it is a good opinion proven by action by Ford.

        To answer your question, in Atlanta where I live Explorer works, Highlander works, Pilot works. They are everywhere.

        Do you really think styling is the only reason Flex doesn’t sell? Do you think Highlander and Pilot are pretty designs? Sure, I give you Explorer now looks beautiful. But you tend to ignore the fact that Pilot and Highlander and Traverse are far from good looking. Yet they sell. BECAUSE they work in cities where they ride high and proud. They look like SUVs, not like a second generation SCION XB on steroids.

        Trust me, SUV is not about a strong engine. I have the Pentastar in Grand Cherokee and it is plenty fast for what I need it to do. It has nothing to do with ecoboost v6 in Explorer. As long as a SUV has at least a V6 for a three row SUV, it is good enough.

        Creativity is good, but you can’t change the major DNA of a SUV (ride height) and then expect it to work. I rest my case.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          IMO the only “good looking” mid-full size CUVs are the Highlander, Envoy and Santa Fe. The rest are ok but really do nothing for me stylistically.

          Sad about the Flex…if anything, it should be livery vehicle instead of the MK-whatever. It’s style and shape are distinctive, and certainly no worse than some of the abominations out there (I’m look at you, Pilot).

          I know I’m in the minority, but the Explorer just doesn’t do anything for me….

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          It is almost all styling. The Flex seat height, roof height, and ground clearance are almost exactly the same the Pilot and Highlander.

          The Flex has polarizing styling and that has hurt it in the marketplace. And yes, the Explorer getting the Ecoboost V6 hurt the Flex. It added high dollar sales to the Explorer and took them away from the Flex.

          The concept of the Flex isn’t going away though. Ford will replace it with another large CUV that isn’t named “Explorer”. It will just have styling that appeals more to the masses.

          Regardless of it not meeting initial sales goals, the Flex has been a profitable product that has more than justified it’s existence.

          • 0 avatar
            Drzhivago138

            “The concept of the Flex isn’t going away though. Ford will replace it with another large CUV that isn’t named “Explorer”.”

            Can I quote you on that? Because if it’s true, I rescind completely my negative reaction to this story.

      • 0 avatar
        SC5door

        “3) The 3.5TT and high trims are now available on the Explorer”

        Sorta stretching that there aren’t we? 2016 is the first year for the Platinum and the Explorer has been murdering the Flex ever since it was released. Most of the units we build anyways are 3.5 or 2.3 XLT’s and Limited trims.

        • 0 avatar
          Adam Tonge

          Sport was 2013.

          I know it’s a smaller part of it, but Flex Ecoboosts are getting replaced by Explorer Ecoboosts. Both are mostly NA V6 though.

          Styling is the major reason why the Flex only achieved cult status instead of mainstream success. Plus, the Explorer stomping it with its looks and 4WD branding.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    Where’s the “sad/dislike” button?

  • avatar
    86er

    The Flex is one of a *very* short list of current vehicles that will be at car shows in ~20 years.

    My wife loves hers and it’s always nice to own a Canadian-made vehicle. I guess people would rather drive that pug-ugly Explorer which seems twice as big with 2/3 of the usable space.

    Whaddya gonna do.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    Flex is a rolling display of how the market is sometimes at odds with itself. The average car buyer is choosing a CUV for overall convenience, but they’re overwhelmingly choosing the cramped, bulky, claustrophobic Explorer over the much more open, airy, and space efficient Flex.

    • 0 avatar
      Hank

      Truth.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      The market is choosing style over function. They’re also choosing the Explorer because of it being “capable” off road; that little dial for the Terrain Management System put the nail in the Flex’s coffin.

    • 0 avatar
      Quick Double Nickel

      Very true. I like the Flex because it’s open and airy feel and the fact that it doesn’t fit the SUV/CUV or minivan mold. My one big issue with it was that it was just too large. The design had a sporty image when compared to SUV/CUV/minivan alternatives, it’s size just didn’t match the sporty design. I know the size was one of the selling points to families, but I always thought it should be about 7/8 of it’s current size and 500 lbs lighter. So basically I wanted a (more) proper wagon . . .

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    This thing had the looks only a livery fleet could stomach.

    This and the Flex = the Homer car. We should be happy either made it this far

    • 0 avatar
      brenschluss

      You like lowered Hondas, one of the few aesthetic affronts in the automotive realm that can actually lower the value of nearby properties.

      I mean, obviously taste is subjective, but it’s like a guy in a tie-dye shirt calling someone else poorly-dressed.

      EDIT: I just realized you’re probably referring primarily to the MKT, which, fine- that thing is hideous. But, if you’re dissing the Flex, I will maintain my #triggered state and continue to make fun of whatever you like.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    If only I could convince my wife her next SUV should be a Flex.

    I think that’s the problem, it’s in a sort of CUV market that primarily attracts female buyers but the Flex primarily appeals to males.

    Also, what a stupid name. It didn’t do the vehicle any favors.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Like my first marriage. I knew it was coming to an end I just didnt want to accept it. Damn.

  • avatar
    Hank

    You know, this necessarily brings to mind one of Ford’s greatest flaws–at any given time they will have a great vehicle that they just absolutely refuse to spend even 50¢ marketing on, and then they kill it for “lack of interest”. To this day, I’ve never seen a single TV spot for the Flex. No one could be faulted for thinking this had happened five years ago, Ford has given it so little marketing effort.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      It was apparently fairly popular in the Golden State, which helped keep it going as Farley was sensitive to that market.

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      They were heavily marketing it in the late 00’s and then kind of gave up on it once the new Explorer rolled off the line. Basically, had they named it Explorer XXXXXXX and made it a sub-brand of Explorer it would have been easily rolled into the marketing of the Explorer line and sold as a companion vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        Click REPLY to reload page

        They could have classified it like they do with the “F-Series”, and called it the Explorer Flex. It would then just be another variant (ahem) of the Explorer, and made its contribution to the fabled nameplate. Heck, the Escape could be called the Explorer Escape, and suddenly we have another huge best-seller.

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Good riddance. They should have killed this disappointment 8 years ago. Sales have always been pathetic.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      With a handle like “EBFlex”, I can only assume this comment was made ironically.

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        Sadly, it wasn’t.

      • 0 avatar
        EBFlex

        Not at all. It may be a good vehicle, but the sales have sucked. Why waste time, money, and effort on a dud of a vehicle?

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          At this point it doesn’t cost much more to keep it in production as long as the assembly line is running its mates. The Flex is hot in California and the majority of them go out the door heavily loaded so it generates some marginal profits and attracts a clientele that wouldn’t otherwise have looked for a vehicle at the Ford store. If all of those well heeled CA buyers are happy with their Flex they may buy another Ford when they are done with the Flex and there isn’t a new one available. So every one that goes out the door now could mean a sale of another Ford product in the future.

          • 0 avatar
            Click REPLY to reload page

            I have a neighbor who drives a Flex. His wife is… portly… and fits in it OK, and his kids go in the back. It works well for them as a family wagon, and they love it. It’s kind of the modern Country Squire Wagon, an alternative to the minivan. He’s not too happy about the gas mileage, though.
            I can see why so many buyers opt for something else, since the station wagon body style has been supplanted by so many other options.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        he’s a troll who’s been here under several names.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    The market has spoken, and the shape it wants in this class of vehicle is that of the bulbous and awkward Explorer. Nothing long and certainly nothing square. My wife thinks it’s the ugliest thing on the market, and it seems like most women and some men agree.

    A shame, but I’m not surprised. It sells enough to make it worth it to play out the string on this generation, but not enough to justify developing a replacement.

    I hope they do something special for the 2019 or 2020 version, whichever is last. I’d probably endure sleeping on the couch for a year to bring home a Flex with Black Label-quality paint and leather, a juiced version of the EcoBoost, and a few goodies not otherwise available.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      My wife is one of the rare ones that actually likes and it was at the top of the list for the next family truckster. Unfortunately then gas prices started their steep climb and the recession set in. It just didn’t make sense as her commuter car so we held on to the old family truckster and got her a more fuel efficient sedan as her commuter. Of course the fact that the kids are now gone and the need for a 7-assenger vehicle is next to non-existant doesn’t stop me typing Flex in the Craiglist search bar on occasion.

      If I got one I’d be seriously tempted to get one of the woody kits and have the sign guy I know make me some Country Squire script stickers for the flanks and tail gate.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I see a fair few Flex units around Oklahoma City and Edmond. My cater-corner neighbors have one (as well as a 2013 F-150 and a 90s Sable; I think they are Ford people). I would buy it, and it is the only D3 / D4 vehicle I’d buy.

    And CD6? That must be the new RWD platform. If the Explorer indeed goes RWD and has a reasonable amount of space, I may buy one.

  • avatar
    rdclark

    Whenever I see a Flex I think it’s a 2006 Scion xB that’s closer than it appears.

  • avatar
    brenschluss

    Recently a family member, the opposite of a “car person,” asked me what I thought about these. Her late-model CR-V in perfect condition is just that unpleasant to drive, I’m told. This gave me some joy because I quite like these (like really, really quite like these,) but I couldn’t unequivocally recommend it because:

    A) I do not believe it will be as unfailingly reliable as a CR-V (her primary requirement,) and
    B) the only one I can truly love is the Limited, with its 3.5TT, which will absolutely positively not be as unfailingly reliable as a CR-V, and it’s a $40k car at least, which is off-putting to someone who couldn’t care less about having a “nice” car.

    I might still try to convince her that reliability won’t be that big a problem and she deserves something nice, so she should definitely buy a loaded Flex Limited. But that would be selfish, because I just want to drive it, and wax its wonderfully functional shape, and buy bulky items at Costco only because they’d fit.

    I wish I had an excuse to own one of these.

  • avatar
    HotPotato

    Dammit, Janet!

    Sad to see it go, but visually it lost the plot during the restyle by trying to look all mean n’ stuff. The new nose is stupid, the black wheels are stupider, and the elimination of the contrasting white roof is completely unforgivable. The whole fun of the original was its children’s storybook quality: it was the Mini Cooper that swallowed a school bus!

    Now it just looks like someone went down to Pep Boys, bought all the PlastiDip they had in stock, and smoked all the trim on mom’s station wagon. *shudder*

    • 0 avatar
      HotPotato

      I’ve never been so excited to report that I was wrong about something. Was just at the Ford dealer and what was being unloaded off the new-car truck but an EB Flex, candy apple red, silver wheels, white roof. You CAN still get a Flex in the colors God intended. Sanity prevails.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Both sort of look like funeral hearses, MKT in particular, so good riddance to both. Not sure what will the funeral homes replace the MKT with…

  • avatar
    phreshone

    They should Lincolnize the Flex, using more of its base boxiness vs what they did with the MKT…

    put a 1964 Continental grill on the Flex and sell it only at Lincoln. base 3.7na FWD and AWD 3.0EB… WOuld be a better Town Car replacement than current MKT

  • avatar
    rpol35

    There is no 2017 MKT listed on Lincoln’s website so I guess it got the bum’s rush.

  • avatar
    Jeff Zekas

    Never liked the Flex. Drove one for 2 years. Third row seats awkward. High door sill. Motor loud on acceleration. Constant computer glitches. All in all, a less than stellar vehicle.

  • avatar
    Sjalabais

    Ford has started selling the Edge in Norway, which is pretty uncompetitive (too heavy, not unique, too pricey, and no 7 seater at that size). I have been asking for the Flex for years. Now I know the bland Edge and the fantastic Flex come from the same factory…doesn’t help.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    I’m perplexed as to how it lasted this long. It was a dud from the start. Yeah, sure, great inside, but outside it looked like the 1st gen Scion xB’s mom.

  • avatar
    kmars2009

    Hope it is redone, and becomes the much beloved Town Car.
    The Emkay names are being retired.

  • avatar
    415s30

    I rented a Flex to go up into the mountains with 4 passengers and it did great. I liked it. I don’t need something that big all the time but I can’t complain.

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