As a strategy to help keep sales high through a model's lifetime, Ford is moving to a three-year restyling cycle. The first indication of Ford's new short program is the freshening of the 2009 Ford Flex, which is already underway. That's right, the Flex is not even on dealer lots yet and it's already being redesigned.

Ford's own design director, Peter Horbury, admits that it feels odd to be working on the redesign so soon after completing the original. The normal wait time would be five years before a redesign. But to meet a three-year product cycle, work on the next version must begin immediately to have everything ready to go to production in time.

Even with the ambitious update cycle, Ford is remaining realistic about sales, however. The mid-cycle restyling of the Flex and the other models that will follow its model is intended as a refresh to help keep sales strong until the next full update, rather than as an actual sales-increasing tool, reports Automotive News. The changes are still expected to be substantial, however. The company's internal information shows that small changes won't achieve the results sought.

For the Flex redesign, the doors, greenhouse and glass areas are expected to stay the same as the present model, but the rest is up to the designers, and subject to change, according to Horbury.