By on October 29, 2019

Image: Ford

For a model that encompassed a single (but very long) generation, the Ford Flex made a big impact on Ford Motor Company’s image, to say nothing of its fortunes.

You probably don’t remember June 3rd, 2008, but that was the day the boxy, funky Flex first rolled off the assembly line at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario plant. You probably do recall the events of Monday, October 28th, 2019, however, and one thing that should stick with you is this: Ford has officially pulled the plug on the Flex. A handful of models will roll out until some point in November, but today marks the big wind-down.

With the imminent loss of the Flex and the recent death of its Lincoln MKT platform mate (which wrapped up production earlier this month), the automaker’s lineup, like that of so many others, stands to become just a little more devoid of originality.

As it has several times in the recent past, Ford marked the passing with a memorial. So long was the Flex in production, many might be shocked to hear that they can still buy a 2019 model with zero miles on the odometer. Eleven model years, during with the Flex saw only a single major refresh.

First appearing in 2005 as the Ford Fairlane Concept (remember the Alliteration Years?), the Flex served up a style not unreminiscent of other slab-sided utilities born of the 2000s, though its voluminous interior promised versatile seating for six or seven occupants. Power came only from a sturdy V6, and there was once a time when you could option it with a fridge. EcoBoost power arrived in 2010.

“Flex broke the mold. It had both crossover and minivan elements in a hip, trendy package that stood out from what was becoming a really boring minivan segment,” said Chris Kessler, the Ford Flex’s marketing manager, in a statement.

“Its design traced its roots to the traditional family station wagons that many of our customers remember growing up with, but it brought forward modern sport/utility design elements and features both parents and kids loved.”

No one can say the Flex wasn’t a success. While not selling in nearly the same volumes as its Blue Oval CUV brethren, its volume didn’t flag very much as the years wore on. In 2019, Flex sales are up 13.5 percent through the end of September.

Upon its debut, the model provided a unique alternative to the defunct Freestar, allowing parents to get noticed in the school pick-up line, and its SUV-adjacent persona and available turbo power helped boost its cred among male drivers. Ask Bark about his faithful Flex. Depending on where you live, you might even spot one involved in an undercover police operation.

And yet the Flex’s time had come. Riding atop an outdated platform and boasting styling that stopped being fresh years ago (the above pictures show a 2013 and 2019 model), the Flex and MKT were dinosaurs that successfully evaded a extinction-level comet for years but eventually ran out of places to hide. With their discontinuation comes the loss of 450 jobs at Oakville Assembly, and you can bet the union isn’t happy about that.

“For months Unifor has been urging Ford to come up with a plan to avoid this scenario,” Dave Thomas, president of Unifor Local 707, said in a statement reported by Global News. “Ford was aware the Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT were coming to the end of their production life-cycle.”

While this year is all about the UAW, 2020 sees contract negotiations kick off between the Detroit Three and Canadian autoworker union Unifor. The loss of jobs at Oakville, plus the imminent closure of production operations at GM’s Oshawa Assembly, will surely make job retention and new model allocations a top priority.

[Images: Ford]

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48 Comments on “Eulogy Time: As Ford Flex Passes Into History, an Automaker Remembers the Box and the Bucks...”


  • avatar
    Thomas Kreutzer

    I am not a fan of Ford, but will still miss the Flex. It’s another family hauler that soldiered on a lot longer than it should have, mostly because people found them useful and appreciated the price point.

    I am unsure if Chrylser has decided to discontinue its Dodge Caravan, which I still think is a more attractive vehicle than the Pacifica, but when it finally goes a door will close on an era of family vehicles that had some real rockstars. And there aint nothing wrong with classic rock!

    I know nothing about the amount of money it costs the manufacturers to keep vehicles like these in production, but it seems to me that once the tooling is paid for (and unless there is some overriding safety concern) they should keep cranking these sorts of things out as long as people continue to purchase them.

    Maybe their logic is that these sorts of legacy vehicles undercut the sales of newer models, but I think the public has gotten wise to how often the companies just put lipstick on new pigs and charge us out the yin-yang for the privilege of buying them. Vehicles are already so expensive I can’t see how they can continue to do this forever. From my perspective, I think it would probably be smart for them to keep a few “value leaders” around, y’know?

  • avatar
    statikboy

    I have nothing against the Flex, but I see no way in which it resembles or represents a minivan. The 2 major attributes of minivans, low, flat floor/high roof and sliding rear doors, aren’t present. Maybe someone can tell me if it has the third…. foldaway or easily removable seats.

    • 0 avatar
      spookiness

      The seats did not stow or easily remove. I thought about one of these to haul the elderly parents, and a stow-and-go or removable 3rd row would have had me borrowing it a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The floor is low and the seats fold flat very easily, and even folded the there is storage room in the area where the 3rd row stores. The fronts fold flat easily, but no there are not latches to remove the second row.

      Many times on this very website people have said that they were interested in one as the family truckster but their wives said no way I’m driving that.

      However some women loved it as an alternative to a minivan. I’m not sure how we got on the subject but was talking cars with one of my former students and it came up that her Mother had a Flex. I inquired further and she said that her Mother needed a minivan, but didn’t want something that looked like a minivan and she didn’t want the high floor of a CUV/SUV so she went with the Flex.

      • 0 avatar
        dal20402

        It’s possible that I would own a Flex now if my wife hadn’t exercised an absolute veto over it. I came pretty close to getting a used MKT at one point, and much of the reason for MKT over Flex was wife styling preference.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      The Flex should have been compared to the Land Rover Range Rover. From the front, they look similar, both with decent V6 engines and the same mileage, except the LR/RR requires premium, and the Flex costs 1/3 as much. The Flex is far more reliable too.

      My brother in law want to buy a Flex for my sister, who hated the look and wanted the LR/RR, even though they’re basically the same shape, because it’s all about the badge. It’s been a money pit, but she still won’t give it up.

      Ford might have done better making the squared off Flex version a Lincoln with a luxury interior, and raising the price to half the LR/RR. A more rounded, cheaper Ford version with a Taurus front end would have sold as well as the Ford Flex has, but the boxy Lincoln version might have sold better than the MKT.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Pour one out…the Flex always seemed infinitely more practical than it’s lot mate, the Explorer. But style (and marketing) sells, I suppose. Had a loaded Flex some time back for a long-term rental and loved it. In the end, however, when it came time for a family (and dog) hauler, we opted for a Dodge Grand Caravan. Given my daughter’s life in the dog show world, we needed the ease of the sliding doors over the style of the Flex. Still, sad to see it going away…

  • avatar
    crtfour

    “boasting styling that stopped being fresh years ago”

    Honestly I see this as refreshing and this is what attracts me to a vehicle. At least it stands out to some degree which is what I love about my vehicles (LR4 and XK8) Both of are outdated by today’s standards but who cares, I hope to keep for quite a while.

    I’ve never driven a Flex but those that have them seem to love them.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    Eleven years is a very long cycle, I assume it means this was in fact a good vehicle and had profitable sales for a long time .

    Missing in this article is the critical question and answer : was it still selling and making $ for FoMoCo ? .

    -Nate

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      possibly, but being on the old Volvo-derived D platform would cause issues in the near future w/r/t plant tooling. all of the other D cars are gone; everything of that size class is now on stretched versions of the CD4 architecture.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The sales were pretty stead and are actually up this year. There were never any significant discounts on them and at least in certain parts of the country the upper trims had a high take rate. So yeah Ford was probably making some decent money on them.

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    Kudos to Ford for the nice tribute (the lede photo).

  • avatar
    dukeisduke

    A friend recently traded his wife’s Flex for a new GLE. Somehow I think the Flex’s reliability will be a fond memory, especially compared to the Mercedes-Benz.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    I was very excited when I first saw pictures of the thing. When I realized how big it was, my enthusiasm evaporated. It’s a very-practical form-factor, but I, personally, didn’t need something that big (or thirsty.)

  • avatar
    ToolGuy

    Another ground-breaking innovation by the Ford Motor Company which was quickly copied by no one.

  • avatar
    darex

    Pathetic ripoff of the MINI Cooper from the start — except blown-up to giant size. I’m amazed they didn’t get surd over it.

    • 0 avatar
      dukeisduke

      The Mini Cooper is a pathetic oversized ripoff of the original BMC Mini.

    • 0 avatar
      sirwired

      Other than “it’s box-shaped” I’m not sure what on earth you are talking about. (You could just as easily say it was a truck-sized Scion xB)

      • 0 avatar
        ToolGuy

        The white roof was kind of a giveaway that someone was looking at someone else’s work.

        • 0 avatar
          Russycle

          Meh, my dad’s 72 Suburban was blue with a white roof. Mini didn’t invent the concept. In fact, the Flex looks a lot like that old Suburban. Probably why I’ve always liked them.

          • 0 avatar
            ToolGuy

            The *greenhouse* was white, and I’m betting there was white lower down on the body (two-tone Suburban).

            Mini had the first white *roof* (only) to my recollection? (Should I add ‘in modern history’ disclaimer? Lol.)

            [There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at GM over the discontinuation of the two-tone option on Suburbans effective with the GMT800.]

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            Not exactly, although the white does extend down the rear pillar and rear window.
            https://www.pinterest.com/pin/316589048796118597/?nic=1a

            I do miss the two-tone trucks.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            VW Vans had the white roof in 1954…..

            “Mini had the first white *roof* (only) to my recollection?”

            As did many American cars in the early 1950’s .
            -Nate

  • avatar
    darex

    Pathetic ripoff of the MINI Cooper from the start — except blown-up to giant size. I’m amazed they didn’t get sued over it.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I have always liked the Ford Flex, but never got to drive one. To me, it was a perfect halfway vehicle between a car and a van.

    The styling appealed to me. I wonder if the interior space was true to the exterior styling as far as roominess goes. It seemed to be.

    I used to tease “PrincipalDan” about buying one! Alas he hasn’t yet, as far as I know!

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Nope. Flex made it to my consideration list but there were a few demerits against it.

      Fuel Economy – a FWD NON-Ecoboost Flex gets the same fuel economy as the 2010 Highlander (V6 4wd) I got rid of. The fuel economy of that beast of a Toyota is my least favorite thing about it. (I would have preferred an AWD Flex but their fuel economy makes some full size crew cab pickups look preferable.)

      It was difficult to find a Flex with the factory towing package. I do not intend to tow with it but did not trust the beast without additional transmission cooling.

      I honestly also would have liked to see sliding doors on the Flex but that would make it so much harder for Ford to deny that it is actually a minivan in drag.

      Adios Flex, what might have been!

  • avatar
    thelaine

    I have always absolutely loved the styling of the Flex. I think it is a classic and believe that one day they will be valued collectibles. They were a throwback to the station wagon, with all the practicality, but without the ugly. I am sorry to see them go.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    I’m another non-buying Flex fan. I believe the 2013 model was available in a teal and silver combination that matched the Land Ark’s color combo and I desperately want(ed) the AWD Ecoboost version.

    One year we were given one as a rental during storm response and I was super excited to drive it – apparently I was alone on that island – but I was distraught when I looked under it and confirmed it was FWD and we required AWD due to it being a snow event. I almost took it anyway and considering I ended up with a Dodge Nitro with a headlight out, I might have been happier while stuck in a drift.

    I rode in one belonging to a coworker and got a chance to see how spacious it is. It’s cavernous. But, like sirwired mentioned above, for my purposes it’s just too big to live with. For someone with kids or who hauls things all over the place it would be perfect.

    The Flex did retro right. It didn’t copy anything directly and I think it aged really well. You could release it today as an all new model and people would appreciate it.

  • avatar
    JimZ

    I had to chuckle to myself reading Torchinsky’s rant over on Jalopnik. Calling Ford “dummies” for canceling it. Funny, I didn’t see a Flex in the list of vehicles he owns.

    Internet Car People need to understand that automakers are in the business of making money selling vehicles people buy. They don’t exist to lose money building unsellable lot poison just so you can argue about it on the Internet.

  • avatar
    Heino

    I really tried to get one. Wife: Hearse! Kids: Coffin! And then the wife decides we must get a RAV4 Hybrid.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    These will be highly sought after for years to come, especially the remaining examples with the EcoBoost V6.

  • avatar
    B-BodyBuick84

    Never been a fan of Ford but Mucho respect for the Flex. Sad to see it go. Some neighbour’s of ours, a family of 5 with two dogs, got one brand new back in 2013 or 14′. Turquoise with a white roof and black leather interior, 3.5 Ecoboost with AWD and the 4500 lb tow package. Every summer they’d go caravaning for a month, towing their 4000 lb trailer all over B.C. and Alberta (apparently with the Ecoboost it’s a thirsty but otherwise great tow vehicle), and in wintertime it was always cool to see this retro-styled wagon plowing through the snow to reach their driveway (our street is mild-to-moderately steep).
    The only thing I remember being an issue is that the cooling fan failed the first time they towed with it, but the dealership fixed it (apparently there was a recall if I remember?)AND threw in a full-sized spare tire as the stock spare wasn’t rated for towing in the event they needed to use it (I remember THAT surprising me. A stealership giving a customer a near-essential piece of equipment? Unthinkable!)
    I was a passenger in it two or three times and honestly can’t think of anything I didn’t like about it. They still have it, and maybe it’s just because I’m a wagon guy, but if I was ever to buy a modern day Ford, the Flex would probably be high on the list.

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    The Ford Fairlane concept back from 2005 was to foreshadow a production replacement for the Windstar/Freestar minivan, on the CD3 (Mazda CX-9) platform. Supposedly the Flex couldn’t be made large enough on that platform, and ended up as an updated Freestyle/Taurus X.

    The interior size was still smaller than a minivan’s. Ford ran out of funding for intended sliding doors, spent the money on the well-received interior instead.

  • avatar
    jfk-usaf

    I believe that this was a missed opportunity for Ford in the time of the SUV. If they “trucked” this thing up (height and maybe some aesthetics and more rugged interior) and made a separate but similar luxed up Lincoln version it could have been an even bigger success. I know that Lincoln created that awful looking thing called the MKT but I mean a closer to form version. It’s different enough from the Explorer/Expedition that i believe that it could have stood on its own and would not have stolen too many sales. If executed correctly Flex (prob change the name too?) could have even captured some sales from those of us that miss the (proper) square edge Landrover/Range Rover SUVs. It would have been unique in the market place but still contained the features that we wanted. Sad to see it go

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I didnt know that they made these all the way til recently. Still, stinks to loose one of the few cars out there with a real roof and a mouthless front end.

    I still think it should’ve been sold as a Volvo though. It would’ve fit them more. In Fords line up it had to compete with the Explorer which was more trendy in the end.

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Too bad. I always saw rhe Flex as the right car for me at the wrong time. Its such a fixed design its a kind of vehicle i could see evolving not so much going through total redesigns. But with sales hovingering in the 20k range for 10 years Ford musthave thought the same as toyota and honda thought whe their slow but steadily selling boxes got old (xb, element) and decided to hang it up.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    I’ve always had a soft spot for the Flex, but have never had a need for something that big. I like that it had a higher seating position, while not requiring a step ladder to get into and out of. The styling is en pointe as well, no angry Pokemon or asphyxiated guppies here.

    Also, am I misremembering something here? I could have sworn there was a year or two where the Flex and Exploder were offered with the 2.0 EcoBoost as an “upgrade” to the 3.5NA.

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