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Ugh. Flex This Ford.

I have been a fan of the Ford Fairlane concept vehicle since its introduction a few years ago. This week, I got a glimpse of photos of the production version that will debut at next month’s New York Auto Show. It has stayed remarkably true to the original concept…except for one thing.

Ford will call the uniquely styled crossover…the Flex. The Flex. That’s right. I said The Flex.

The Flex? Flex This.

Ford just doesn’t do names very well. We all know by now the saga of the Ford Five Hundred being renamed the Taurus a few months after Ford mothballed the old Taurus. We all know the saga of the Lincoln Zephyr being renamed the MKZ after a year. We all know about the genius of trying to name all the Fords with names that start with “F,” and all the SUVs with names that start with “E,” and the idea of naming all the Mercurys with names that started with “M.” Did somebody go to business school to learn stuff that smart?

Fairlane was the perfect name. Yes, a few short-sighted people said you shouldn’t give a crossover the name of a classic Ford sedan. Bah!

Good names are hard to come by. The Fairlane concept I have come to anticipate looks like a big MINI Cooper. That’s not a bad thing. Yet, it is also reminiscent of the old woody wagons. That’s not a bad thing either. There is an air of excitement and a little whimsy around this vehicle. The Fairlane name was perfect.

I have heard that some inside Ford felt that Fairlane gave the vehicle a retro feel with which Fordies weren’t comfortable. Remember the Thunderbird? But the design department always favored Fairlane as the name, which is why they used the name for the concept. Got that…the creative people in the company always favored Fairlane. Naming is a creative endeavor.

The Fairlane, er…I meean the Flex…I think, will draw a lot of new buyers to Ford. It is a striking design in a growing category of car-based SUVs. As much as I like the new GM full-size crossovers—Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia, Buick Enclave—they don’t pack much of a design statement. That’s where the Fairlane…er…I mean…the Flex…has the edge on the GM vehicles. Fairlane…er…Flex…has that “I gotta have one of those” feelings about it, not unlike the MINI.

Doesn’t Fairlane elicit notions of a journey…going somewhere in style…making a statement…going someplace cool. “Flex” just seems at odds with the slightly romantic, slightly retro feelings that seem connected to this vehicle.

I welcome your thoughts. Maybe if we have enough comments, we can change their minds.

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