When the 2009 Ford Flex arrives in dealership showrooms this summer, customers will enjoy a quiet, yet dynamic ride in one of the most stylish vehicles on the road today – thanks in large part to Ford’s Buffalo Stamping Plant.

“Our stamping operations play a key role in delivering the exceptional level of quality customers will find in the Ford Flex,” said Paul Kosaian, director, Ford Stamping Business Unit Operations. “The sheet metal sets the stage for the smooth styling, a dynamic ride and an incredibly quiet interior in this beautiful new vehicle.”

The sheet metal plays a major role in the vehicle’s world-class fit and finish, which contributes to the quiet ride by eliminating wind noise and squeaks and rattles. And at Buffalo Stamping, that sheet metal is nothing if not precise.

For Ford Flex, Buffalo stamps 37 parts, equaling 32,250 tons of steel annually. The parts include roof, hood, doors, fenders, liftgate and many other structural underbody components that create the vehicle’s body shell. The parts are shipped to Oakville (Ontario) Assembly Plant where the vehicle is assembled, along with Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX.

According to a recent quality survey, Ford Edge ranked best in the medium crossover segment against the competition for having the fewest sheet metal concerns such as door opening/closing efforts, fit and finish issues and dings and dents. The April survey, called U.S. Global Quality Research Study, was conducted by RDA Group for Ford.

“We do in-station quality checks where we’re constantly monitoring the surface of the outer skin,” said Plant Manager Dave Buzo. “We’re also gathering dimensional data on an on-going basis.”

The goal is to produce consistent panels with no variability. If the data indicate variability in the stamped panels, operators and engineers make necessary adjustments to eliminate it.

Flex’s distinctive styling, namely the signature door grooves, offered the plant an interesting challenge, Buzo said.

“The grooves, or character lines, made it critical for every door panel to be dimensionally perfect because the customer’s eyes will detect an inconsistency,” he said. “The more that Ford moves to vehicle designs that have lines and features going from panel to panel, the more it emphasizes the importance of how well our stamping plants need to execute.”

The advanced technology at Buffalo also contributes to the plant’s productivity improvement. Two years ago, Ford invested $214 million in Buffalo, installing a 4,000-ton Schuler press and 120 dies and 10 subassembly lines. The new press, one of the largest in the industry, stamps parts at 16 strokes per minute versus 10 with a conventional press.

Buffalo Stamping Plant opened in 1950 and employs approximately 850 hourly employees and 103 salaried employees. While stamping for the Ford Flex will not result in new hires, some overtime is expected throughout the summer.

In addition to supporting the Oakville Assembly Plant, Buffalo stamps parts for the Crown Victoria and Grand Marquis at St. Thomas (Ontario) Assembly Plant, Ford Ranger at Twin Cities Assembly Plant, and the F-250 at Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.