Another Loss for the Hip and Trendy: Ford Flex Driving Into the Sunset

When Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) introduced its Flex SUV-minivan combo in 2008, the company positioned the three-row seating and boxy, low-to-the-ground design as a blend of the hip and the retro. After 11 years and more than 296,000 sales, Ford announced Monday that it is winding down production of the Flex and dropping it from its lineup.

The move is part of the company’s plan to replace three-quarters of its portfolio by the end of next year and expanding its offerings of pickups, utility vehicles, gas-electric hybrids and other electrified vehicles, including the much-hyped “Mustang-inspired” electric performance utility vehicle the company now plans to unveil on November 17.

The Ford Flex is built at Ford’s Oakville, Ontario, plant where the company also builds the Ford Edge and the Lincoln Nautilus, both of which are better sellers. Ford has sold about 101,000 of its Edge compact SUV in the first nine months of this year and nearly 24,000 full-size Nautilus SUVs. Flex sales totaled just over 18,000 in the same period.

Ford has already stopped selling its Focus and C-Max models in the United States, and the Taurus sedan is slowly fading away following the announcement of its discontinuation in April of last year.

In the third quarter of this year, Ford sold a total of 580,251 vehicles. Of those, more than 500,000 were SUVs or trucks. The company’s top-selling F-Series pickups sold 214,000 units in the third quarter, more than all the company’s SUVs combined.

Ford is taking an enormous gamble by killing off its cars. Sales are down 25% year over year for the first nine-months of 2019. Even the iconic Mustang saw sales drop by 10% in the same period.

The Lincoln MKT three-row crossover also has been scuttled and replaced by the Aviator. The company sold 1,899 Aviators in the third quarter, the first during which the vehicle was available compared to MKT sales of 3,113 in the quarter, a jump of 75% over sales in the same period a year ago due almost certainly to blowout pricing.

The point here is that CEO Jim Hackett and Executive Chair Bill Ford have barely gotten started on their $11 billion plan to remake the company. Other than hoping that truck sales don’t tank and that SUV sales more than make up for passenger cars, there’s not much that Ford can point to as being better than it was a year or two ago. No Mustang-inspired performance utility vehicle is likely to mark a sea change in that either.