Ford kills Flex after more than a decade

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. said Monday that it would kill the Ford Flex crossover after just more than a decade of production.

The polarizing, boxy cross between an SUV and a minivan — and its luxury counterpart, the Lincoln MKT — are being phased out as CEO Jim Hackett and his lieutenants shake up the lineup to introduce new vehicles built on a handful of new platforms meant to lower production costs. 

After more than a decade in production, Ford Motor Co. is killing the Flex and its Lincoln twin, the MKT, as part of its move into broadening its truck and SUV lineup for North America.

There's no room in Ford's new lineup for the Flex, beloved in small circles as a hip, unique ride that didn't look like a conventional crossover. The vehicles would completely phase out by November. Roughly 450 people at Ford's Oakville Assembly Complex in Ontario would be laid off, as the automaker does not have immediate plans to replace the Flex with another product. That plant will continue to build the new Ford Edge and Lincoln Nautilus SUVs.

"They had great interiors," Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of automotive, said in an interview with The Detroit News. The Flex was know for a plush "family-size" interior that seated seven on quilted leather, among other things. "The Flex was a proud part of our lineup, but we're more excited about what's to come."

Over the next two years, Ford plans to introduce a number of new vehicles. The automaker plans to debut an all-new fully electric crossover in mid-November at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The Ford Bronco is expected to be re-released in 2020. Ford also has several crossovers or small utility vehicles in the hopper in addition to reworks of its Super Duty and F-150 pickups. 

2019 was the lasts model year for the Ford Flex's sister crossover the Lincoln MKT.

The automaker announced in early 2018 that it would phase all sedans out of its lineup as part of an effort to focus on trucks and SUVs. While Ford has debuted previously planned new or remodeled trucks and crossovers like the EcoSport, Ranger, Escape and Explorer since then, it has yet to show other new nameplates that could replace its small cars or sedans.

The Flex, meantime, hasn't delivered impressive sales in more than two years. The automaker sold roughly 20,000 Flex crossovers in 2017 and 2018. Through September, Ford had moved 18,337 Flex vehicles. It was the automaker's lowest-selling SUV in recent years.

"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, Ford Flex 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."

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau