10 July 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes

Bear with me for a moment, and take a step into your childhood with this excerpt penned by Hans Christian Andersen:
All the people standing by and at the windows cheered and cried, "Oh, how splendid are the Emperor's new clothes. What a magnificent train! How well the clothes fit!" No one dared to admit that he couldn't see anything, for who would want it to be known that he was either stupid or unfit for his post?

None of the Emperor's clothes had ever met with such success.

But among the crowds a little child suddenly gasped out, "But he hasn't got anything on." And the people began to whisper to one another what the child had said. "He hasn't got anything on." "There's a little child saying he hasn't got anything on." Till everyone was saying, "But he hasn't got anything on." The Emperor himself had the uncomfortable feeling that what they were whispering was only too true. "But I will have to go through with the procession," he said to himself.

So he drew himself up and walked boldly on holding his head higher than before, and the courtiers held on to the train that wasn't there at all.
Keeping the above story in mind, I need to get something off my chest.

I don't buy into the hype about the Ford Flex.

It pains me to make that statement, because I really, really want to see Ford pull out of its tailspin and sell some awesome products that resonate with the US buying public. The Fusion has done pretty well in its early life, and the Edge appears to be pleasing its early customers, in spite of a need to diet and some lackluster magazine reviews.

Now Ford wants us to believe that the Flex will be the family hauler for the 21st century, the one that every father and mother has dreamed about as they retch at the thought of commuting in a traditional minivan, and all of the perceived social stigma that accompanies a minivan purchase.

I hope I'm wrong about this, but I think it looks a little too different from the norm. GM's new full-size crossovers (Enclave, Acadia, and Outlook) have similar dimensions to the Flex outside and inside (except height, where the GM vehicles are about five inches taller, apparently mostly in the ride height). The difference is, GM is trying to make their large crossovers look more or less like traditional SUVs, while Ford is trying to make theirs look different. The GM triplets hide some of their length by having a curved, arching roofline, while the Flex has one as flat as Kansas, and you can see every inch of the vehicle's length when viewing the profile. In fact, the orange body and white roof in the press photos make it look even lower and longer than it probably is. People who seem to like the Flex's style compare it to a Range Rover, which has famously squared off edges and a recognizable shape, but the profile and white roof remind many others (me among them) of a double-sized Mini Cooper. The Flex has an innovative interior and lots of space, but I can't get past the idea that it looks a little too much unlike anything else in its class. To me, it just seems too long and low, and I'm just not sure if minivan intenders (or minivan-phobes) are interested in something so different.

Ford has bet big before and hit grand slams (1986 Taurus/Sable, for example), so it's entirely possible they're right on the Flex as well. I'm not going to humor the emperor and say that it's anything but a boxy-shaped crossover, and not the second coming of the minivan. It's just not a great looking vehicle to me, and I'd be dishonest to say otherwise.

1 comment:

Mags said...

I'll second your opinion. Too much gimmick in it. I think the white roof crap will be gone by the second year in production- just like how Honda got rid of the black plastic on the Element.

And without the white roof... well it just looks like a really long wagon.