2013 Ford Flex set to beat school-bus image

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A 2011 Ford Flex.

The Ford Flex has sold well in California, Automotive News reports. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Roypack/Wikipedia)

One of the first things the casual automotive fan might notice about the 2013 Ford Flex crossover is that the blue Ford oval is not immediately visible. The front and rear lift-gate advertise emphasize the make, rather than the model, a mark of the automaker’s brand research. Automotive News points out that Ford is in no way disassociating the Flex from the flagship. On the contrary, it has high hopes for its largest crossover vehicle.

Ford flexes its identity muscles

According to Ford research, customers have not regretted purchasing the Ford Flex. However, they also have not immediately associated their Flex with the Ford brand.

“One out of every two customers who buy a Flex have never purchased a Ford,” said Amy Marentic, Ford marketing manager for cars and utilities at a recent media launch for the 2013 Ford Flex. That’s the highest “conquest rate,” or gateway percentage for any Ford model, Marentic noted.

Revamping the school bus

Critics of the Ford Flex have posited that the overall design resembles a less-than-sexy school bus. Yet this hasn’t deterred Ford-fanatic shoppers in California. Sales in the Sunshine State have accounted for 20 percent of Flex sales, according to reports.

[Buy a used Flex car today!]

Unfortunately for Ford, Flex sales have taken a 20 percent dive through February. At its peak, the Ford Flex moved 38,717 units in 2009, but sales have been on the decline since then. With the 2013 Ford Flex, the automaker hopes that it can buck the disturbing trend.

Can your school bus do this?

The 2013 Ford Flex offers a number of improvements that Ford hopes will help the model shed the school bus image. The front-wheel-drive version will reportedly enjoy 25 mpg on the highway with its base 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 287 hp. That’s one more mpg than the 2012 Flex. And if a Ford fanatic takes the step up to the 3.5-liter EcoBoost engine, that customer will have 365 hp and 355 foot-pounds of torque at his or her disposal. Electronic power-assisted steering and suspension from Ford’s Torque Vectoring Control and Curve Control help smooth out the ride, too.

Flexing new stylistic touches

While the overall body design of the 2013 Ford Flex won’t be radically different, many style touches will appear to give it an even more appealing look. The front grille has been redesigned, as well as the headlights and other front-end details. On the interior, the instrument panel has been redesigned into aesthetically appealing clusters, while the rear seatbelts are inflatable, a trend-setting move toward greater passenger safety in the event of collision. MyFord Touch infotainment and greater noise insulation also contribute to a more enjoyable ride.

Starting at $31,670

The base model of the 2013 Ford Flex begins at $31,670, shipping included. Fully loaded with all-wheel-drive, the price tops out in the Limited edition at $43,500.

2013 Ford Flex at the Los Angeles Auto Show

Sources

Automotive News

Car and Driver

2013 Ford Flex

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