Just a day after a top Ford Motor Co. executive characterizes the rollout of the new Flex model as “encouraging,” the auto maker reveals it is putting on indefinite hold plans to launch a third shift at the plant that makes the cross/utility vehicle.

In April, Ford announced it would add a third shift at the Oakville, ON, Canada, plant that not only is launching the Flex but builds two other CUVs, the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX. It also is slated to produce a Lincoln version of the Flex, dubbed the MKT, beginning next year.

But rising fuel prices have shifted consumer demand toward more efficient small cars, and that has cut into sales of some CUVs and may be stifling early demand for the Flex, as well.

Edge sales fell 9.1% in June vs. year-ago, while MKX deliveries dipped 14.5% on a daily rate basis, according to Ward’s data. Ford sold 1,379 Flex CUVs in June, its first month on the market.

Some 350 new hires expected to staff the third shift have been told their jobs now are on indefinite hold. Ford says it will find other positions for another 160 workers who had been laid off from its Windsor, ON, Canada, operations and were to move to the third shift at Oakville.

Canadian Auto Workers union President Buzz Hargrove tells Reuters Ford has indicated it still plans to go ahead with the third shift at some point, “but it’s pretty hard to see where that’s going to happen today.”

Yesterday, Mark Fields, Ford president-The Americas, downplayed reports the Flex launch is not going as well as planned.

“The early indication (on the Flex rollout) is really encouraging in light of the industry situation,” Fields said.