Further building its strength in the rapidly growing crossover vehicle market, Ford Motor Company today announced the production launch of the 2009 Ford Flex at the Ford Oakville Assembly Complex (OAC).

"Today, we're providing still more evidence that Ford is committed to delivering more products people want, further building on our crossover leadership," Mark Fields, Ford's President of The Americas told more than 1,000 employees, government officials and Canadian Auto Workers representatives at the launch celebration. "Flex drives as good as it looks, and the Oakville team is going to deliver another high-quality crossover for customers."

The Oakville plant has increased production and is adding 500 jobs in an effort to keep up with the demand for its hot-selling crossovers including the Lincoln MKX, Ford Edge and Ford Flex, which starts arriving in dealership showrooms this summer.

Crossover vehicles have been the fastest-growing vehicle segment in North America this decade. During the past two years, Ford crossover growth in North America is the fastest in the industry. In the U.S., Ford Edge was the best-selling mid-size crossover in 2007 and is to date in 2008. In Canada, the crossover segment grew 89 percent in 2007 versus the previous year, and Ford of Canada sold more crossovers than any other manufacturer.

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Reaction to Ford's newest crossover has been strong, a point celebrated by attendees of the launch ceremony including hockey great Wayne Gretzky who emerged from a 2009 Ford Flex.

"The team here at Oakville continues to be at the top of their game," Gretzky said. "By working together, they are building a great success story."

Innovative Virtual Manufacturing

The 2009 Ford Flex, the first Ford product fully developed under the Global Product Development System, also was among the first Ford vehicles to fully utilize digital design and manufacturing technology to ensure high quality at every stage of the vehicle's development.

By running thousands of engineering checks in the vehicle's digital pre-assembly phase, the product team dramatically reduced the number of potential manufacturing concerns, helping ensure Flex will meet the highest customer expectations in every market where it's sold.

"We continue to raise the bar on ourselves with standardized quality-driven processes in all areas of the company – design, product development, manufacturing and customer service," said Joe Hinrichs, group vice president, Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs. "Now Ford's quality is on par with the best in the industry. Our unrelenting commitment to world-class quality guides everything we do."

Oakville Assembly Complex is an example of how Ford is moving toward flexible manufacturing across its North American operations. The plant produces two unique vehicle platforms in its flexible body shop.

Edge, Flex and the Lincoln MKX come down the same assembly line. This flexible system means the plant can efficiently adapt to shifts in consumer demand.

"The news couldn't be better for the Oakville operations," said Barry Engle, Ford of Canada president and CEO. "The products are selling as fast as we can build them. We're adding another show-stopper vehicle, and we're creating new employment."

In 2005, the 5.4 million square-foot (486,000 m2) plant began a $1 billion conversion to flexible manufacturing, including a state-of-the-art body assembly facility. As a flexible plant, OAC can build multiple models on unique architectures enabling the plant to change the mix, volume and options of products more quickly in response to consumer demand – representing a new level of market-driven manufacturing agility.

Flex combines a unique "box-on-box" design with class-leading package, delivers fuel economy of 12.6L/100 km in the city and 8.4L/100 km on the highway – or 17/24 mpg, respectively – and offers other "firsts," including:

* The latest generation of Ford's successful SYNC technology, which allows for voice activation of in-car technology as well as hand-free operation of mobile phones and MP3 players.
* A compressor-driven refrigerator/freezer, which works some 30 percent faster than home fridge/freezers.
* Multi-panel Vista Roof, which gives each individual in the vehicle their own view.
* A reverse camera system that shows a rear-view image on the 8-inch screen when Flex is in reverse.
* Ford's new EasyFuel capless refueling system, which allows for clean and simple refueling without a fuel cap.