Going into the last decade of the 20th century, Ford came to realize it couldn’t compete in the minivan arena. Looking to break the mold, and aware of the fact crossover suv sales were pretty strong, Ford’s product planners came up with a bombastically original idea. After all, Ford’s known for having a better idea—right?
They decided to build the most versatile vehicle ever seen by mankind, it would have the capacity of a minivan, be shaped like a compact SUV, and drive exactly like a car. Ford’s product planners came up with —wait for it—a station wagon. Of course in 2003, they couldn’t call it a station wagon, as the then still heavily market influencing Baby Boomers had a thorough disgust for anything their parents coveted.
And, their parents coveted station wagons—big time.
Ford however, like so many other manufacturers of the time, went ahead and built a station wagon anyway. They knew it was the best solution for their contemporary customer base, despite being a concept dating all the way back to 1923, when the manufacturer Star produced the first factory-built station wagon. While we’re on the subject, the term “station wagon” arose from the days of train travel. Also known as depot hacks, carryalls and suburbans, they hauled people, their luggage, and/or their cargo to and from train stations.
As passenger cars sold to the general public, the American station wagon thrived well into the 1970’s. However, the Arab fuel crises of that decade took a toll on the full-size wagon. Shortly after that, the minivan came into vogue, and hot on the minivan’s heels was the SUV boom. These factors, plus the ancestral disdain we spoke of earlier conspired to all but eradicate the market for station wagons in the U.S.
However, just because people didn’t want station wagons didn’t mean Ford couldn’t sell them one anyway. They just wouldn’t call it a station wagon. Instead, they called it a crossover utility vehicle, and yes, people went for it.
Replacing the Ford Taurus station wagon in the company’s lineup, the Freestyle was announced at the 2002 Chicago Auto Show, introduced at the 2003 Detroit Auto Show and went on sale in 2005. Sold under the Freestyle name from 2005 to 2007, Ford renamed the model Taurus X for the 2008 model year and sold it through 2009; before replacing it with basically an updated version of the exact same concept called Ford Flex.