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:
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.
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.
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.