The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a stop-drive notice for plug-in versions of the Dodge Hornet and Alfa Romeo Tonale. Vehicles are alleged to pose a fire risk due to improperly installed battery connections. Stellantis and the NHTSA have warned that this could result in a fire hazard even when the vehicle is parked.
Say what you will – and many have – about the name Alfa Romeo selected for its new compact crossover, there’s no denying the thing fits well into the brand’s current design language. Alfa intends for it to fit well into a customer’s monthly balance sheet as well, announcing today it expects the Tonale to run 33 miles solely on electricity and return a rating of 77 MPGe.
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.
Delayed by the semiconductor deficit, the 2023 Alfa Romeo Tonale is here and nearly ready for production.
It’s gone through some subtle changes since its 2019 debut at the Geneva Motor Show. But the Tonale, which I recently learned isn’t Italian for toenail, has remained true to the concept. The traditional Alfa grille has been retained while the razor-thin headlights have been widened slightly to make the signature LED elements more visible. But it’s otherwise indistinguishable from the concept without popping the hood or examining the non-fungible token (NFT) that comes with the car.
Last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced a €5 billion plan to set the table for more palatable electric vehicles — including hybrids — and boost capacity utilization at its Italian facilities. Roughly one fifth of that total will go toward the launch of a compact crossover from Alfa Romeo and Fiat’s upcoming Panda hybrid.
Numerous Italian trade unions (AQCF, FIM, FISMIC, UGLM, and UILM), after speaking with the manufacturer, have confirmed the Pomigliano plant will undergo some retooling in preparation for the new models. Meanwhile, FCA confirmed the cost to Reuters — stipulating that the total investment for the two models would be “closer to 1 billion than 500 million euros.”
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