2023 Dodge Hornet First Drive – Feeling the Sting
You may have already seen the first ad for the 2023 Dodge Hornet – it’s a spoof of disaster-movie trailers and it includes a man standing in a city, arms wide open, shouting “let me feel your sting!”
I felt the Hornet’s sting during a day of driving through North Carolina. And I didn’t even need an EpiPen.
Alfa Romeo is Bumping Tonale Production Due to High Demand
Alfa Romeo doesn’t sell anywhere near the number of vehicles that other brands under the Stellantis umbrella do, but the storied Italian automaker appears to have a hit with its new Tonale SUV. The company said it would increase production capacity to meet the demand for the upcoming vehicle, which is due here later this year.
Report: Alfa Romeo Not Pleased With Dodge Over Hornet
Dodge just pulled back the curtain on its newest vehicle, the Hornet crossover, but there are already rumblings of discontent from other brands within the Stellantis family. Dodge based much of the Hornet’s underpinnings on the Alfa Romeo Tonale, a move many within the Italian brand are unhappy with.
Dodge Hornet to Debut This Summer, Maybe
Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis has effectively indicated that the brand will be rebadging Alfa Romeo Tonale to better tackle the subcompact crossover segment. Called the Hornet, the vehicle harkens back to the miniature MPV (pictured) that debuted back in 2006 of the same name. At the time, the plan was for Dodge to release the model in Europe in 2010. However, the financial crisis forced Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to restructure, with the boxy hornet Hornet being one of several casualties.
The concept has since been revised, with Kuniskis confirming the vehicle’s summer debut with The Detroit News. While the CEO said the company would like to introduce the model in August between the Dodge-sponsored Roadkill Nights and Michigan’s annual Woodward Dream Cruise, he noted that supply chain disruptions could force a revised timeline.
“This gray hair that I’m getting? It’s not COVID, it’s not lockdowns, it’s supply chain, man,” Kuniskis said during a virtual news conference. “But every single thing we’re doing is like in Jell-O right now, because it’s so hard to plan anything.” At this point, it’s getting hard to drum up sympathy for the industry. People are paying out the nose for vehicles because of the automotive sector’s collective inability to manufacture at scale. Granted, not every setback can be pinned on the manufacturer. But we’re over two years deep into constant disruptions, relentless product delays, and dealerships robbing people blind with very few tangible solutions being offered. Though even if Dodge continues having problems, you may still be able to nab something closely related to the Hornet. Alfa Romeo has already revealed the Tonale and it looks as though Stellantis plans on using it as the template for the similarly small Dodge. From The Detroit News:
He declined to confirm where the vehicle will be built, but it’s set to be assembled alongside the Alfa Romeo Tonale at Stellantis’ plant in Pomigliano, Italy, according to AutoForecast Solutions LLC. In February, Alfa revealed the four-door Tonale, its first subcompact SUV that launches in June with deliveries to the United States expected to arrive before the end of the year. It comes standard with a gas-powered 2.0-liter turbo-4 engine, but also is available as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) with 272 horsepower from twin electric motors mated to a 1.3-liter turbocharged engine.
Previously, the Hornet was a concept, two-door small SUV that Dodge revealed in 2006 at the Geneva Motor Show. The brand at the time said it combined American attitude with European function. Dodge trademarked the name for passenger vehicles in March 2020.
The upcoming Hornet is also said to come with a PHEV option, which Kuniskis suggested could launch in 2023. Expect it to be more-or-less identical to Alfa’s crossover with fewer creature comforts and a slightly lower price tag.
“The Dodge brand needs something,” said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global forecasting for AutoForecast Solutions. “They can’t survive the brand on muscle cars. Making a fun-to-drive compact crossover fits into the Dodge brand.”
“You kind of have to move up a price class to get to the real fun-to-drive ones,” he continued. “If it’s under $30,000, it’s usually packaged and sold as transportation, lifestyle vehicles with price being key and fun-to-drive being secondary. It could potentially break open a market for Dodge, especially if they can keep the price low enough.”
Dodge is also supposed to be launching an all-electric performance car the company has cringingly dubbed “eMuscle” in 2024 with its planned debut preceding the Hornet introduction. Mr. Kuniskis suggested this could also be delayed, however. Apparently, the manufacturer is waiting on an important piece he said was “outside of my control, it’s outside our industry, quite frankly” before the car should be shown.
“I’m pushing to get it in the public view and show you what we’re doing and how we’re doing it different as fast as I can,” he said. “Because it drives me crazy that other people are way out in front of their headlights, and I’m not.”
Kuniskis also issued an ominous warning to dealerships and the aftermarket community after musing about electrification and evolving business models.
“There’s a change going on in the industry that’s going to affect our retail partners, our dealers, our partners in this business, and when we go to full electrification across the industry, they’re going to lose a revenue stream that they have today,” he elaborated. “They’re going to see a decrease in revenue and parts and service and maintenance. That’s just a fact.”
The Detroit News also made mention of the stage kits from the Direct Connection performance parts program Dodge had relaunched to sell certified, factory warranty-backed modifications to boost the power on Dodge vehicles when installed by a dealership. Guess what? They’re delayed, too. Though this was a combination of the absent semiconductors and approval by the California Air Resources Board so they can be sold in all 50 states.
Nameplate From the Past Returns in Trademark Filings
Model names usually remain the property of their original owner. The trademark gets renewed again and again, long after the vehicle bearing the name shuffles into retirement, lest it fall into someone else’s hands.
In this case, three automakers have placed the name somewhere on a vehicle.
That name is Hornet, and recent U.S., Canadian, and Mexican trademark applications show that Fiat Chrysler — and especially the Dodge brand — wants to keep it secure. But why?
What's Wrong With This Picture: Fly Like Fiat, Sting Like A Dodge Edition
Last week we took the counter-intuitive step of calling out Chrysler for refusing to hype its forthcoming products. “Let’s face it:” we wrote at the time, “Chrysler needs buzz, hype, awareness, or some kind of excitement surrounding its future generally and its forthcoming products in specific (if only in the irritating “teaser” format) almost as much as it needs anything else.” Well our wish has been granted, sort of, as this rendering of a 2013 B-segment Dodge hatchback has hit the internet [via AutoBirdBlog] to inspire rare optimism about the Chrysler Group’s future. For a number of reasons though, this is not the buzz-builder we were looking for.