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Will SUV flex Mustang muscles, or hobble pony car image?

Will SUV flex Mustang muscles, or hobble pony car image?

Ford, which is killing off the Flex, will reveal a new ‘Mustang-inspired SUV’ at LA Auto Show

Those of a certain age remember when Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In would present the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate award for some dubious achievement, such as for yet another ridiculous government spending program, to the American pharmaceutical industry for spending four times as much on advertising than it did on drug research, or to the wondrously wacky wizards of the Ku Klux Klan.

What triggers this bit of nostalgia are two recent news releases from the Ford Motor Company.

Important note: If there’s a Flying Fickle Finger of Fate to be awarded here, Ford likely will have to share it with the car-buying public. Allow me to explain:

Ford’s muscular Mustang is a favorite with auto enthusiasts and car collectors alike, but will they be eager for a sport utility spinoff?

The first news release from Ford — well, actually, the news release I received came from Ford’s European headquarters in Cologne, Germany, rather than from Dearborn, Michigan — confirmed that the company, and I’m not making this up, we’re months away from April Fool’s Day, will reveal its “game-changing all electric, Mustang-inspired SUV” on November 18 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. 

You read that correctly. We’re going to get a Mustang “inspired” sport utility vehicle, and it’s going to be electric powered. 

Ford even provided a teaser sketch of the vehicle, or at least of its roofline from its Mustang-like headlamps to its Mustang-style tail lights.

Ford has not announced whether it will brand this new vehicle as a Mustang, and, personally, if it does I will be among the first to nominate the company for the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate because the best thing that could happen to the rival Chevrolet Camaro is for Ford to dilute the Mustang brand by adding a couple of doors, ruining its pony car’s proportions with a crossover-style roofline, and then lifting the resulting mess atop an all-wheel-drive chassis.

But perhaps even sadder is that people would rush to buy such a vehicle simply because it was labeled “Mustang,” which I hope it will not. Mustang-inspired is bad enough. A Mustang badge on a utility vehicle would be like entering a plow horse in the Kentucky Derby.

Yes, I’ve seen a couple of coachbuilt Mustang shooting brakes and, yes, I think they are very cool, sort of like the original Corvette-based Nomad concept vehicle from Chevrolet. But I fear that is not what Ford is going to show us next month. My fear, and I say this as someone who owned, drove and loved a ’69 Mustang fastback until it was broadsided by someone who ran a stop sign, my fear is that we may see Ford’s version of the Pontiac Aztek, albeit with some Mustang design cues.

While launching its ‘Mustang-inspired SUV,’ Ford is killing off its Flex

What I find truly ironic about the coming of  a “Mustang-inspired SUV” is that just days after admitting that, yes, indeed, there is going to be “Mustang-inspired SUV,” Ford announced that it was ending production of the Flex which, it pointed out, “stood out as bold, fun and fashionable in a crowded minivan/SUV segment.”

What the Flex is (or, sadly, should that be “was”?) is a classy, distinctively designed three-row station wagon with gobs of room for people and their stuff. I remember driving one soon after the Flex was introduced as a 2008 model and I liked its car-like stance and handling, its roomy three-row cabin and the clever use of the space beneath the third row for storage.

Sadly, not enough people agreed with me (or was it a dismal failure by the marketing department and Ford dealers?) and Ford was able to sell only 296,000 units in 11 years, not the sort of math that appeals to board members when they’re doling out executive bonuses.

But based on what I’ve read about the demise of the Flex on Facebook, the vehicle has a cult-like following and Ford likely is making the same sort of mistake Chevrolet did when it dropped the Avalanche version of its pickup truck. It seems to me that turning your back on loyal customers is a great way to encourage them to wonder what your competitors might be offering.

A Flying Fickle Finger of Fate | Julien’s auction photo

Which brings me to this: Ford gets a Flying Fickle Finger of Fate for faltering on the Flex, and let’s polish off another of those old trophies and have it ready next month if Ford tries to foist a crossover utility with a pony galloping across its grille.

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7 Comments

  • Brian Geever
    October 30, 2019, 2:18 PM

    I always thought the Flex would be a great cab or Lyft type vehicle, and am very surprised Ford did not market them in that direction, more.

    REPLY
    • Nick Vat@Brian Geever
      October 30, 2019, 4:22 PM

      I saw the supposed style of the Mustang suv. Looked like a Mustang on steroids. I loved the look. The name used for the model is the Mach E.

      REPLY
  • Keith Brooks
    October 30, 2019, 5:50 PM

    I drive a Flex,they are deceptively fast and versatile, Ford dropped the ball on that model

    REPLY
  • William Middlebrook
    October 31, 2019, 4:41 AM

    Not sure I agree with you. Remember the Porsche Cayenne? The world laughed. They are no longer laughing.
    I’d say if anything, Ford is late to the game.

    REPLY
    • John Nichols@William Middlebrook
      October 31, 2019, 10:33 AM

      Hey dummies if they don’t sell quit building them. Flex did not sell as predicted!!!! Electric SUV just another toy for Americans who think electric automobiles are in now. Bad news if you do not come up with battery that charges like in 30 minutes are less and goes between 600 and thousand miles on a charge, then they are just toys. No one but me ask how much electricity does it take and all like it. Are they beating bad drum while on their way to success?

      REPLY
  • James McIntire
    October 31, 2019, 5:46 AM

    My wife and I own a 2013 Flex and we love it. It’s a big car that doesn’t feel nearly as large when driving it. It has plenty of space for passengers and gear. The AWD system on ours has never let us down in bad weather. I think the biggest mistake Ford made with the Flex is they tried to market it too much as a luxury vehicle and priced it accordingly. We bought ours used as a new one similarly equipped would have been well out of our budget. It’s also been a very dependable vehicle for us!
    As for the Mustang-inspired SUV? Enough already!! The entry-level trims of the Mustang already look it was Fusion-inspired with the same stupid trapezoid grille that Ford is going with in all of their vehicles right now. I love the Mustang and I am a Ford enthusiast, but Ford is turning me away lately with the direction they’re going. (Stop trying to tell us that turbo-charged engines get better fuel economy because they don’t. As soon as you get into the boost the fuel gauge goes straight to E!) Let the Mustang stand alone as something unique, something special within the Ford line-up. Don’t dilute it’s image any more than you already have by making it look like a Fusion, and spinning an SUV off of it. Ford, you’re doing a great job of losing a loyal customer.

    REPLY
  • MiguelArturo Octaviani
    October 31, 2019, 11:37 AM

    Beautiful car! I Love this car!

    REPLY