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.
Lexus hasn’t been quiet about its need for crossovers. The brand went into the fad (it can’t last forever) underprepared with a fleet largely comprised of sedans; now it’s rumored to be developing a sub-$30,000 product following the launch of its subcompact UX model.
While a little surprising that Toyota’s luxury arm would pursue such a modestly priced vehicle, especially since it previously said cheap cars were a nonstarter, itty-bitty crossovers are in fashion right these days— and probably a good way to increase sales volume in select markets. Such a car would also give Lexus an opportunity add another model with a smaller-than-average carbon footprint, pleasing government regulators.
Serving as the basis for this hypothetical model will be the Toyota Yaris Cross. The Lexus allegedly carries the BX name and will serve as an unlikely candidate for the North American landscape. It may, however, see action in Europe and Asia if the manufacturer decides to pull the trigger.
Having already revealed the updated European version, Fiat is unveiling North America’s take on the facelifted 500X. While the subcompact crossover’s official LA Auto Show debut isn’t for another day or so, FCA decided not to sit on it. Likely a wise move, as the model will assuredly be overshadowed by higher profile vehicles appearing later this week.
As with its European counterpart, the North American changes are barely noticeable. While Fiat says the exterior has been updated, with new fascias incorporating LED running lights, the tweaks aren’t immediately apparent to onlookers. In fact, most are unlikely to notice any significant changes to the model before climbing into the driver’s seat or spending some time with a corporate dossier outlining all the alterations.
Fortunately, we can give you the abridged version — a list that includes standard all-wheel drive and a new engine.
Lexus is teasing the new UX crossover prior to its big March 6th premiere at the Geneva Motor Show, and something immediately stands out: itty-bitty tail fins. To be fair, we don’t know how much molding is actually happening in the singular photo provided by the automaker. The fins do seemed toned down compared to the earlier UX Concept vehicle — but they also look further separated from the rest of the bodywork.
Compared to a 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, the Lexus’ fins could be best described as vestigial. However, they do appear to be legitimate — extending upward from the vehicle’s rear haunches in a distinctive manner.
General Motors apparently believes you’ll pay a genuinely lofty price for the 2017 Buick Envision precisely because it’s a Buick.
A basic 2017 Buick Envision, upgraded with Preferred trim in order to select the $1,850 all-wheel drive system, costs $38,645. That’s correct: the least costly AWD Envision is priced from $38,645. General Motors will sell you a larger, V6-engined, AWD GMC Acadia for only $445 more.
But that’s a GMC. A generic, garden variety, menial GMC. The Envision seeks to mercilessly trample on the Acadia’s blue collar status.
Who would want a spacious GMC when you could own a Buick; a smaller, less powerful, China-made Buick with cloth seats, no sunroof, blank switches at the front of the center console, and no advanced safety gear? Evidently, the person who’s willing to pay a premium for the Buick tri-shield badge. You know, the buyer who places a value on supposed Buick prestige over and above any accompanying equipment that may (or may not) accompany this alleged luxury SUV.
Sitting just $500 below the top-spec 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring is a new Grand Select trim.
Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown tells CarsDirect, which spotted the addition, that the 2017 CX-5 Grand Select is an attempt by Mazda USA to examine consumer tastes.
Grand Select, Brown says, “will be offered for a limited time and will test the waters for customer options preferences in the marketplace.”
Like the CX-5 Grand Touring, the $29,835 Grand Select is a very well-equipped, premium-aping compact crossover. Unlike the CX-5 Grand Touring, the Grand Select lacks forward collision warning, adaptive cruise, auto high beams, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. A few years down the increasingly autonomous road, those are the kinds of features that might be a real boon to resale.
Sure you wanna save $500?
The 2017 Infiniti QX30, launched in the United States in late August, is the product of a now tenuous partnership between the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler. There’ll be more such vehicles, most notably the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup truck that uses the Nissan Navara as its foundation.
That truck won’t come to America. But by procuring the Mercedes-Benz GLA’s architecture, Nissan now has an entrant in the rapidly growing subcompact luxury utility vehicle sector. Built in Sunderland, England, rather than the GLA’s German factory, the Infiniti QX30 shares its powertrain with the GLA250 and benefits from an Infiniti renovation.
Fittingly, there’s a meaningful discount available for a buyer who’s willing to consider the Infiniti variant instead of the original Benz. A fully optioned 2017 Infiniti QX30 AWD enters the playing field with a haughty $45,495 MSRP, absent a number of features you’d expect on a much less costly car, lacking the space of a typical compact car, and deprived of the illustrious three-pointed star that adorns its twin. Yet this QX30 costs roughly $5,000 less than a comparably equipped Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic.
$5,000 less, but better. Marginally better.
Recognize this Kia?
TTAC’s Matthew Guy drove and reviewed this particular 2017 Sportage SX Turbo in early July. Readers need not an ability to read between the lines to locate Guy’s disappointment in the turbocharged 2.0 liter’s responsiveness, or the nearly complete and total lack thereof.
“Kia’s intent is to offer V6 power with four-banger economy. Unfortunately, I found little of either in this Coke-bottle-sized engine,” he wrote at the time.
The Sportage SX, rated at 237 horsepower and 260 lbs-ft of torque, shuffles its power through all four wheels in a 3,997-pound package. In a 2016 Kia Sorento weighing 4,303 pounds, I said the same powerplant’s mid-range “is as punchy as the Sorento’s available 3.3-liter V6,” and “passing power is plentiful as you ride a 260-lb-ft wave across a plateau of torque.”
Yet in the smaller and lighter Sportage, Matthew says, “Outside Sport Mode, it didn’t even feel like 137 hp, let alone 100 more.” In TTAC’s hyperactive Slack chat at the end of July, he continued, “It drove like cold molasses going backward uphill.”
But Guy was the first auto writer to get seat time in this specific 2017 Kia Sportage SX Turbo. Unbeknownst to him, and to the Kia Sportage’s instrument cluster, the Kia was wounded before getting to the battlefield.
U.S. sales of the Buick Encore have increased, on a year-over-year basis, in each of the last 16 months. That streak includes these last five months, a period in which a more affordable twin of the Encore, the Chevrolet Trax, has also been generating meaningful U.S. sales activity.
Encore volume grew 31% in the five months preceding the Trax’s U.S. launch. Since the little Chevy’s arrival, not only has the Encore avoided a decline, the rate of its volume expansion has hardly slowed: Encore sales jumped 28% between the final month of 2014 and April 2015.
In fact, as General Motors attracted 7,477 sales with the less costly Trax in March and April, Buick reported the best month ever for the Encore in March and the second-best ever Encore performance in April, the latter being a slightly slower month for the overall auto industry.
With November’s sales results in hand, we asked four months ago whether Ford Motor Company’s Lincoln division had reached “Peak MKC.” Initial evidence suggested the Escape-related small crossover wasn’t able to cross the threshold from middling success in the Acura RDX and Audi Q5-dominated small luxury CUV arena into the upper tier.
With the MKC’s U.S. sales results from the first-quarter of 2015 now in, there’s yet more evidence leading us to believe that demand for the MKC – at its current price point, with its current level of incentives, without a new MKX stealing limelight – won’t climb noticeably higher.
Sales of small luxury crossovers jumped 40% in February 2015 and so far this year are up 40% compared with the first two months of 2014.
Subtract the newcomers from that equation and the continuing nameplates, those which were on sale at this time last year, posted a 3% February improvement but are down 1% through two months.
Those new players – NX, MKC, Macan, X4 – generated 29% of the small lux CUV activity in January and February. Yet their collective arrival, both at the lower end with the NX and MKC and at the higher end with the Macan and X4, aren’t slowing down the Acura RDX, Volvo XC60, and Range Rover Evoque.
After only one brief stint in last week’s 2015 Ford Escape tester, I was already angry with this heavily optioned Titanium AWD specimen.
The anger had nothing to do with our first drive to the other side of Halifax. And I wasn’t even in the Escape, let alone driving it, when my resentment blossomed. I was shovelling our driveway during a lull in the blizzard that left New York in peace, hammered Boston, and slathered Nova Scotia’s capital with ice after a few inches of snow fell. With four vehicles jammed into our small driveway to avoid the on-street winter parking ban, the Escape’s tailgate insisted on opening of its own accord with frustrating frequency.
• USD As-Tested Price: $38,075
• Horsepower: 231 @ 5500 rpm
• Torque: 270 lb-ft @ 3000 rpm
• Observed Fuel Economy: 19 mpg
Armful of groceries? Yes, hands-free tailgate opening might then be useful, if you can maintain your balance while holding the grocery load in your right hand, perching the 15-month-old child on your left hip, and doing the jitterbug under the rear bumper.
The Honda CR-V was America’s best-selling SUV in 2014, just as it was in six of the seven previous years. (We’re using the term “SUV” loosely here in order to avoid constant delineation.) CR-V volume increased to previously unseen levels in 2014. Honda reported 335,019 CR-V sales last year, 28,807 more than Ford managed with its second-best-selling Escape; 31,115 more than Honda achieved with the CR-V one year earlier.
• USD As-Tested Price: $33,775
• Horsepower: 185 @ 6400 rpm
• Torque: 181 @ 3900 rpm
• Observed Fuel Economy: 23.8 mpg
American consumers look favourably upon Honda’s reliability reputation. The CR-V is also a long-established nameplate in a relatively fresh category. But there must be numerous other reasons for the CR-V’s wild success.
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