Ford to kill Flex crossover, union says

Ford Motor plans to discontinue the Ford Flex full-size crossover in 2020, Canadian union officials said early Tuesday.

Canadian auto workers union Unifor revealed the automaker's plans upon reaching a tentative labor contract with the company, averting a strike after last-minute negotiations.

Ford spokesperson Kerri Stoakley declined to confirm the discontinuation of the boxy, seven-passenger Flex, citing the company's policy of not discussing future product plans.

But Unifor officials said the Flex's demise would correspond with increased investment in the automaker's Oakville, Ontario, plant, where the Flex is currently built along with the Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX and Lincoln MKT. The company is expected to upgrade the Edge and MKX in a few years, solidifying their place in the lineup.

It was not immediately clear whether the MKT, which shares vehicle architecture with the Flex, would also be discontinued.

Sales of the Ford Flex were up 13.1% through the first nine months of the year in the U.S. to 17,034 units. But at that level, the vehicle is barely a blip in Ford's U.S. portfolio, which sold 1.9 million vehicles during that period.

The vehicle has historically earned high customer-satisfaction scores but its unconventional design was polarizing and it never became a big seller.

Unifor said early Tuesday that it had secured wage increases and CA$700 million in investment commitments from the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker.

The agreement provides union members with a $6,000 signing bonus, three $2,000 annual bonuses and two 2% wage increases. Newly hired workers will also receive a slightly higher wage progression over a 10-year period until they reach a top wage of $34.15 per hour in Canadian dollars.

The deal with Ford, which must still be ratified by members, is the third and final new contract Unifor needed to negotiate with automakers this year. When negotiations began in the summer the union's top priority was to secure new investments that would prevent plants operated by Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles from closing.

Unifor has been trying to stop the decline of the Canadian automotive industry, which was surpassed in 2008 by Mexico for annual automotive production.

Dias said the vast majority of the investments committed by Ford will go towards retooling the company's Essex Engine plant in Windsor, Ontario.

Ford confirmed that an agreement was reached but declined to comment on the specifics of the deal.

Follow Detroit Free Press reporter Brent Snavely on Twitter @BrentSnavely.

Detroit Free Press


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