Hived Off

We look at Dodge’s 2023 Hornet, a compact CUV with muscle-car ambitions, newly arrived from Pomigliano d’Arco.

The Dodge Hornet R/T makes its debut. Image: Stellantis Media

After a year of rumours, renderings and speculation, the Dodge Hornet was presented to the eagerly-awaiting world on 16th August 2022. As was already widely known, it is the Alfa Romeo Tonale’s re-branded twin. Of that, more later. There is rather more interest in the company it will keep, and the future of Brand Dodge, now a very small component of the Stellantis machine, but one with a unique proposition and a home market fan-base almost religious in its devotion.

With 2021 USA sales of 215,724, and a market share of 1.43%, Dodge still counts as a mass-market nameplate, in number but certainly not in its breadth of sector coverage[1]. Even before the 2008 reshuffle which saw the creation of RAM as a stand-alone division for commercial vehicles, Dodge was on the road to becoming a brand defined by traditional muscle cars, with the arrival of the Charger sedan in 2005 and the Challenger retro-coupe first presented in 2006 and produced from 2008.

And yet, the road was not clearly set. Parent company bankruptcy, SUV-mania, and an enduring demand for minivans confused the message, as did the arrival of an earlier Italian-American interloper. The Giulietta-derived Dart PF compact saloon in mid-2012 was contrary to Dodge’s direction of travel as a crossover and big-car brand with a heavy emphasis on power and performance. Demand for mainstream sedans, particularly from the domestic Big Three was in rapid decline, and the Dart along with its Chrysler 200 stablemate, was destined for a short and unhappy life[2].

Dodge Dart PF Limited and R/T Image: New York Times

When time was called on the Dart in January 2016, Fiat Chrysler’s US passenger car divisions were set firmly on exiting the mainstream sedan market to concentrate on SUVs, crossovers, and high performance cars in the American tradition, as affirmed by the merging of the SRT[3] sub-brand with Dodge in May 2014.

In 2020 the Journey SUV and Grand Caravan minivan were discontinued, leaving the muscular triptych of Charger, Challenger, and Durango SUV as Dodge’s focused niche portfolio.

Dodge//SRT Performance Lineup: 2021 Charger SRT Hellcat Redeye, 2020 Challenger SRT Super Stock, 2021 Durango SRT Hellcat Image: Stellantis Media

Roll forward to August 2022, and Stellantis used the Dodge Speed Week festivities at the M1 Concourse Event Center (sic) in Pontiac, Michigan to make several momentous announcements about the brand’s future direction[4]. Unlike Alfa’s specious Tonale-based Rinascimento claim, this does read like a true re-birth for the brand, with the strapline Never Lift.

In reality Dodge brand CEO Tim Kuniskis’s message raised more questions than it answered. As widely expected, production of the Charger and Challenger and the Hemi V8 engine will end in 2023. There will be seven Last Call limited editions, with names and visual presentations referring to the revered 1960s and 1970s Dodge Muscle cars. Kuniskis had come to praise the Charger and Challenger, not to bury them – just yet.

The future was demonstrated with dramatic Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept:

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In this case the charger will not be a muscular equine, but piece of power delivery apparatus. The 2024 car is fully electric, but equipped to replicate the sound and driving experience of a high power large capacity internal combustion machine. In this high and honourable endeavour, it will be assisted by the ‘Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust’ which can synthetically trumpet out a sound output of 126 dB making it as loud as any Hellcat V8 powered current Dodge, and also the ‘eRupt’ multi-speed transmission to provide an “electro-mechanical shifting experience”.

The unanswered question is whether the Fratzog-festooned “Future of Electric muscle“, however powerful and noisy, will have sufficient appeal to take the place of the Charger and Challenger, whose virtues included healthy profitability for the parent company.

Already the media[5] are talking of a new internal combustion only RWD/AWD platform, possibly shared with a future Maserati Quattroporte, and further development of the recently revealed Hurricane6 engine, a 3.0 litre straight six already delivering 500bhp in High Output tune. Dodge have stated an intent to make 50% of their production being battery electric by 2030.

That’s hardly ambitious, and there are over seven years left for gentle persuasion of a technically conservative, gasoline-steeped, constituency that electricity is the way ahead. Of course the legislators may make the decision for them – a reality which must sit heavily on the plans of Stellantis’s North American operations.

Dodge Hornet GT Image: Stellantis Media
Alfa Romeo Tonale Image: Stellantis Media

And what of the Hornet? It is being promoted as the “Gateway to Dodge muscle”, with emphasis placed on the availability of a high-output plug-in hybrid, Dodge’s first electrified passenger vehicle.

Dodge Hornet GT Image: Stellantis Media
Alfa Romeo Tonale Image: Stellantis Media

The Hornet engine line-up is easily explained. The entry-level GT has the 2 litre Hurricane4 engine produced in Termoli, Campobasso. It is specified to produce ‘265bhp plus’ and 295 lb.-ft. of torque. There’s no hybridisation, and the 4WD system is mechanical, with a nine speed ZF 9HP gearbox.

The Hornet R/T will be offered only as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), the familiar Tonale powertrain combining a 1.3 litre Firefly engine up front and a 121 bhp electric traction motor driving the rear axle. It delivers an aggregated 285-plus horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque, with 30 miles of all-electric range available from a 15.5-kWh lithium-ion battery.

Extra hoonish delight is provided by PowerShot, a launch control function activated by pulling back both column-mounted paddle shifters to release an additional 25bhp for 15 seconds. Only by using this does the R/T achieve its 6.1 second 0-60 time; normally it is a second slower. Meanwhile the 2.0 litre Hurricane4 powered GT does the 0-60 dash in 6.5 seconds all day, every day and has a top speed of 140mph. The R/T is limited to 128mph – academic but paradoxical in terms of Dodge’s badge hierarchy.

The Tonale’s 128bhp and 158bhp 1.5 litre mild hybrids are not offered in the Hornet, nor – unsurprisingly – is the 1.6 litre MultiJet diesel.

The chassis specification suggests that there has been some downgrading relative to the Tonale, but only in minor details. The entry-level Hornet GT has 17” wheels, and the Brembo fixed-caliper brakes are an upgrade option. The Koni frequency-selective damping shock absorbers are standard across the board, but driver-selectable suspension damping is a Track Pack option for both the GT and R/T. The suspension fundamentals, front MacPherson struts and geometry and a 3-link Chapman strut arrangement at the rear appear to be unchanged from the Tonale, and dynamic torque vectoring with a Sport Mode, where the system functions as an electronic limited slip differential is standard on R/T and GT.

Dodge Hornet GT Image: Stellantis Media
Alfa Romeo Tonale Image: Stellantis Media

The visual transition from an Alpine pass to a vespid is demonstrated by the comparison images. The de-Alfafication has been accomplished dexterously and economically but, bonnet vents apart, the Dodge identity only emphasises how dated and generic the base vehicle looks. European, Japanese and South Korean carmakers have established distinct visual identities for their current SUV offerings, the Tonale/Hornet pair look like something from an earlier model cycle.

Dodge Hornet GT Image: Stellantis Media
Alfa Romeo Tonale Image: Stellantis Media

To paraphrase the argot of clickbait, the Hornet’s pricing might come as a shock to European readers. The GT will start at $29,995, the R/T at $39,995. For comparison, UK Tonale prices have just been announced; £38,595 (including 20% VAT) for the Edizione Speciale[6] with the 158bhp mild hybrid powertrain. The PHEV powertrain in the Hornet is not even available as yet in British Tonales, and the Hurricane4 powertrain with mechanical 4WD is not for Europe.

The USA prices do not include local state sales tax, varying between 0% and 12.5%, but averaging around 7.5%. Nevertheless, that $30K currently translates to £25K for Hornets with a far higher powertrain specification than the 2WD mild-hybrid entry-level European Tonales.

The critics’ assessment of the Tonale in its home continent has generally been lukewarm. Does its alter ego have better prospects?

Channelling the past again. The Hornet GLH, just a concept at present, recalls a turbocharged Omni variant from 1984-6. Carroll Shelby was involved, and apparently it Went Like Hell. Image: Stellantis Media

Certainly the price to performance ratio is far more favourable, as befits Stellantis’ Muscle Car brand. Dodge brand CEO Tim Kuniskis was not to be drawn on sales projections for the Hornet, but did comment that the compact crossover sector in the USA accounted for two million sales annually, and the number was expected to rise. The Tonale number is 60,000 per annum. That number is not official, but based on information from external suppliers[7]. The figure could even factor in Dodge Hornet production, which was no secret by the time of the Tonale launch in February 2022.

Joining a family of very traditional American high performance cars with big-capacity pushrod V8s[8], the Gateway to Muscle Hornet looks like an outlier in the brand Dodge offering. On its own merits, performance and chassis sophistication and a PHEV option are its strongest selling points in the compact CUV sector. The alterations which have turned Tonale into Hornet are superficial and the investment required in tooling would be minimal – probably less than Dodge’s marketing budget if they are making a decent push. If brand Dodge’s allure is as strong as Stellantis think, the Hornet could at least embarrass Alfa Romeo’s Tonale, aimed at a supposedly more sophisticated customer base.

Footnotes:

[1] In Mexico, Dodge’s other major passenger car market, the brand placement is rather different, starting off with a Mitsubishi Attrage re-badged as an Attitude. The Fiat Tipo Type 356 becomes a Neon, and the replacement Dodge Journey is a GAC Trumpchi GS5 II, fully imported from Guangzhou.

[2] The Dart and Chrysler 200 were described by FCA President Sergio Marchionne at his press conference at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show as “the least financially rewarding enterprises that we’ve carried out inside FCA in the last eight years”, although he did commend them as “great cars”.

[3] Street and Racing Technology.

[4] Distractions from the business plan announcements included legal street drag racing, the Dodge Direct Connection Grudge Race, and Roadkill Nights. I earnestly hope that there were vegan options.

[5] Motortrend Jul 28 2022: https://www.motortrend.com/news/next-gen-dodge-charger-challenger-hellcat-v8/

[6] The Edizione Speciale Tonale has the same equipment level as the £42,505 mid-range Veloce model plus 20” wheels rather than 19”. The permanent entry level-model is the Ti starting at £40,005 with 18-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, a 10.25-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto,  dual-zone climate control, a powered bootlid, adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and a reversing camera.

[7] Automotive News Europe. February 2022.

[8] For those want the look, but don’t need the storm and fury, each of the muscular triptych can be had with the 3.6 litre Pentastar V6, providing just under 300bhp. The Hemi engines, with capacities of 5.7, 6.2 and 6.4 litres have outputs ranging from 370bhp to just over 800bhp.

38 thoughts on “Hived Off”

  1. Good morning, Robertas. For me it’s a case of yawn, rather than yeehaw.

    From a Challenger to a Hornet is a huge step and I hope for Stellantis that the brand loyalty is big enough to take such a big step. The customer base might hold on to their old V8’s and then all Dodge can do is persuade first time buyers or people from different car brands. I’m not betting the farm.

    1. That is sheer brilliance! What a wonderfully cryptic reply Robertas.

      To elucidate: ‘Whatever has been is what will be again, and whatever has already been done is what will be done again. There is nothing new under the sun.’

      Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  2. I believe it’s a fairly objective statement to say electric cannot replace the sound, character and ‘soul’ of a real V8. Dodge has positioned itself in such a way that the experience they’ve been synonymous with since the 60s has no future because of legislation. It makes sense they’d try to fake it (and I would like to give them the benefit of the doubt) but having watched a few videos of the sounds it’s making – it’s no hemi. And how could it be, it’s a speaker. EVs are great for everyday cars but I would make a case that muscle cars are sadly dead and any attempts to fake the real thing to me at least is just a parody.

    1. I viewed and listened to a couple of youtube clips of that latest all-electric Charger with artificial V8 soundtrack; I found them unconvincing. It’s loud, but sounds flat, metallic and without “gravitas”. Of course this is only after hearing it through my headphones, but youtube clips of actual internal combustion V8’s sound played on those same headphones are a lot fuller in tone and there’s just no comparison. Dodge boasts about its 126Db loudness, but it’s not just about that guys- it reminds me of those cheap stereo systems of the 1980s that claimed 500 Watt output while a 50 Watt system of a reputable, high end maker produced a sound that had so much more presence and “width”.

    2. I do understand the nostalgic yearning for the sounds of a smooth inline 6 or a big V8. Personally, less so a flat crank V8 or a V12 which my ears find rather silly these days, but that’s possibly because I live in a city where the sort of cars powered by them are so out of place. Yet, whatever sound you might miss, the idea of reproducing it artificially seems completely absurd.

      I suspect that many who will mourn the passing of snarling exhausts would agree and won’t be placated by a couple of loudspeakers with a bullshit name. So might the desire for that genuine, old-school ICE sound be answered by magnetic repulsion piston engines, where the pistons are pushed away from the head by electromagnetic repulsion? The air displaced by the movements could be tuned and amplified to form some sort of agreeable burble which, though not really an essential product, would at least have an authentic relation to what is actually happening.

      Naturally such a motor would likely be terribly inefficient, particularly if combined with the ICE type gearbox that would be necessary in order to play the full symphony, but our future with performance cars is likely to be as dreamworld poseurs anyway. And, of course, there’s retrofitting. Check out Ebay and Amazon and “convert that illegal old Countach to electric power with our easy-fit kits. €500 per cylinder, plus batteries.”

  3. Good morning, Robertas. My goodness, this is a depressing tale to start the day. I have more than a little affection for Dodge, but its blue-collar muscle cars look increasingly anachronistic. At least they are still authentic. The warmed-over Tonale just won’t cut it. As you rightly point out, it’s not even a wholly convincing Alfa Romeo and turning it into a Dodge smacks of extreme cynicism.

    Perhaps Dodge should instead be allowed a dignified death? Keep producing the Charger and Challenger until demand for them dries up (or they are outlawed by regulations) then quietly lay the marque to rest.

    1. Dodge sold 215,724 cars in the USA in 2021. Alfa Romeo, meanwhile, built 44,115 for all its markets.

      If you were Carlos T, which would you think most worthy of preserving?

    2. At least the entire Alfa Romeo range worldwide is now finally outselling Lancia’s sole remaining model, (now sold only in Italy ?), the Epsilon/Ypsilon. But only just. Total sales of 43862 for Lancia.
      Worse news for Stellantis might be that Seat’s new sub-brand, Cupra, (seemingly existing purely because VW couldn’t buy Alfa Romeo?), outsells both Lancia and Alfa combined in Europe. (73117 vs 70357)
      https://fiatgroupworld.com/2022/02/09/in-2021-cupra-sold-more-cars-than-alfa-romeo-and-lancia-combined/

      Those new Lancias can’t come soon enough.

    3. Exactly. Dodge should carry on unsullied by this sort of badge-engineering as long as there’s a market for their vehicles. The development costs of the existing models must have been amortized long ago.

    4. Cupra outsells Alfa and Lancia combined and DS is not much better, selling around 45,000 annually already for years.
      SEAT/Cupra and Stellantis’ problem brands have in common that they are not operating in the fleet leasing market but sell cars to customers spending their own money. SEAT is VAG’s only brand with this sales model and maybe Cupra is an attempt to change that.
      The difference is that SEAT is offering standards of dealer professionalism and customer service on the same level as VAG’s brands for the ‘professional’ market whereas dealer quality is PSA’s as well as FCA’s biggest problem already for a very long time.
      I don’t see how Stellantis is going to change this because I think they are not prepared to invest the tons of money necessary to improve their dealer network and I got the impression that they even haven’t understood the problem.

  4. Only depressing if you think of the Dodge as a car. It isn’t – it’s a device. As is Alfa’s toe nail and all similarly pointless excrescences.

  5. According to Jalopnik, Dodge already have a good level of interest in the Hornet and have 14,000 orders.

    It’s Alfa Romeo USA I feel a bit sorry for – the Toenail will arrive after the Hornet (Alfa have been moaning in public). I wonder what the relative pricing will be.

  6. In days not so very long ago, cars like the Neon, Caliber, PT Cruiser, and Avenger were sold in Europe as value for money products, undercutting the prices of the domestic and Japanese market leaders.

    Given that Stellantis is awash with brands in Europe, there’s not a chance in hell that Dodge will be promoted as anything other that the ‘special order’ status it has now. That said, a sub-£30K (€35K) Hornet with 265+bhp and 4WD could create a bit of disruption in the compact CUV sector, with virtues a lot more tangible than the Tonale’s supposed connection with Alfa Romeo’s rich heritage.

    The Hornet’s pricing compared with the Tonale is solid proof that European car buyers are having the trousers well and truly taken off them by the wily carmakers, with the specious excuses of chip and other component shortages, and the cost of meeting new emissions and sustainability legislation.

    1. I’m sure you’re right about the pricing, Robertas.

      I wonder if they’ll slap a Lancia badge on it, for good measure.

  7. I guess my opinion is likely to be a little unpopular, but here goes… I think the Tonale is actually a pretty successful design. I’m no fan of SUVs in general, and thus I certainly wouldn’t buy one. But given the obvious limitations of the genre, I think Alfa did a reasonable job. I’m particularly happy to see the return of more flowing, rounded lines and crease-free surfaces. Echoes of the Alfa 147. One might argue that the Tonale is Alfa’s 147 for the 2020s, given the way the market has evolved. They’ve clearly attempted to keep the design vocabulary similarly classical, and have avoided some of the faux-futurism or over-macho detailing seen elsewhere (which I can’t help thinking will age badly). Hopefully, like the 147, the Tonale will age gracefully. My only real objection is that from side on, the wheelbase seems a touch too short, with rather long overhangs front and rear. But having recently seen a Tonale in the flesh, that issue seems to disappear, and the overall car hangs together well. In as far as any SUV does…

    1. I agree – I think it’s a nice design, as well as being one of the best SUVs.

      Others have mentioned fake engine noises being generated – that makes about as much sense to me as would sitting in your Ford Model T with a pair of coconut halves, making clip-clop noises. Just anachronistic and unnecessary. I would think the noise without the underlying engine vibration would be a bit of an empty experience, too.

    2. However, there must be noise as there already is legislation pending to make electric cars more audible to the blind and others with sensory challenges. So if a vehicle must make a sound, what is a better representation of things like closing speed and relative size than replicating current engine sounds?

    3. I also agree, and I don’t see an issue with selling the same crossover under these two brands. One will sell well in North America, and one in the rest of the world.
      The Jeep Renegade is also paired with a European product, and that hasn’t hurt sales in the US. The Fiat equivalent flopped in the US, but that was due to poor market positioning, and to FCA’s indifference to the Fiat brand.

  8. Making an ev sound like a muscle car is very depressing news for us urbanites. The majority of us are fed up of the bone heads who shatter the night with their horrible and illegal bangers. Up to now the future looked rosy with Medusa sound detectors set to kill db monsters. Now these same bone heads can simply turn off their speakers as they approach a detector. I’m not a killjoy and love cars, but why should a small minority of odd people think it is okay to inflict their antisocial behaviour on the majority. These obnoxious machines should simply be banned outside of special circuits.

    1. +1

      As we were told at school, “Empty vessels make most noise”.

    2. +2

      Even BMW have been channelling fake engine noise into the cabin for years now and they’re well known purveyors of good taste.

      Hang on… 😁

      On the complete other side of the spectrum, I now regularly get a fright out of a completely silent electric scooter whizzing by at high speed. Having electric vehicles make some sort of noise does seem like a good idea.

      On topic: the Tonale doesn’t do too much for me (I only recently saw one in the metal in a museum, I think that’s the first one I’ve seen), but it might just be ‘good enough’ for what Stellantis is trying to achieve (keeping the brand alive). I do like the nose and tail, but not the bits in between – and that it’s an SUV, obviously. Substituting the Scudetto for the willfully generic Dodge front does nothing for the design.

      While I agree shoehorning cars like these into a brand like Dodge is a little depressing, both from an emotional and a rational standpoint (their sales are still significant – and as pointed out here, much higher than any other ‘specialty’ Stellantis brand) I think it worthwhile to try and find a future for it. Given the technology changes involved it would seem inevitable that this will alienate the current client base, though. A good legacy parts programme should mitigate that to an extent.

      Robertas: I was told similar things in school, right before the teacher devoted all of his attention to the very loudest students.

  9. Quoting, ” In this high and honourable endeavour, it will be assisted by the ‘Fratzonic Chambered Exhaust’….”

    There is nothing honourable about a fake.

    This business of making all the cars electric and forcing them on people is fraud. It’s getting to be a clown world when an electric car with and electric fart can is promoted as “honourable”, let alone desirable.

    Note that WEF is actively progressing an agenda for the termination of privately owned transportation, i.e. your car. Electrification does nothing to alter this, fart can or not.

    By the way, where will the electricity to manufacture, let alone charge the cars, all come from? Last I read Europe and Britain are facing shortages of gas, and oil. Hear tell there are issues looming with food as well.

    1. JT: It seems quite obvious to me that the author was being ironic in his use of the term, ‘high and honourable’ in this instance.

  10. Eoin

    Well of course.

    Nevertheless this entire electrickery enterprise is being promoted as such all the same. It’s a fraud and frauds just don’t seem to end up well for those who get defrauded.

    1. Ponty Python needed only coconut halves for the Holy Grail.
      No horses, let alone a Model T.

    2. Lol – now I’ve seen everything!

      And yes, that’s true, Dave. Actually, you don’t even need the coconuts.

  11. Ev’s can and do make a perfectly acceptable and noticeable noise. Renaults etc make a pleasant humming noise which is totally audible yet could in no way be described as intrusive. Simply make all electric vehicles adopt the same system and the problem is solved.

    Concerning brand development and proliferation/sharing, when didn’t this happen? I can imagine one day soon a Stellantis being a model itself and possibly spinning off from which various models would be forthcoming and then just as inevitably declining and becoming part of a larger conglomerate. Then we will sadly reflect on Stellantis of old as some people do with BMC etc.

  12. I don’t believe V8s will die – they might become more expensive to run, since they will be running on non-fossil fuels in the future.

  13. In case you didn’t know, here’s a vintage Fratzog alongside the famous Flookerang:

  14. Mervyn

    You are likely right about V-8s. They’ll be around, perhaps rare in Europe.

    As far as regular gasolines and gas oils are concerned- they’ll be around for a long time to come. It is highly doubtful that the vast majority of the World is going to follow some weird decarbonisation cult. As always one needs follow the money in order to understand what is going on. Consider for a start the vast investments of OBOR et al. Ask: are the significant components of these being made on the basis that by 2030 or even 2035 the hydrocarbons will no longer be used? Next consider what money is doing in Europe. Hint: it’s departing. Fast. For a starter, notice that the Eurodollar market has been drained by some USD2-trillion so far. Questions: what is causing that? Why? Where did it go? (out of Europe sure, but do you know where?) Then review the German 10-year.

    Western European people are surrounded by fake and they most often take part in fake- possibly because they believe in the narratives they are bombarded with. This state of affairs isn’t sustainable. Societal structures have failed with institutions becoming illegitimate and major troubles emerging to the surface. Something based on falsehood and fraud won’t stand permanently (and shouldn’t). Such is an ugly thing and hateful besides. An important question that had bothered many on this site, me included, was why automotive design/styling had fallen to the generally low standards it has. Perhaps now the answer is coming into focus. The people involved* are fakes. The system of education they endured was full of fakes. Their profession erected a fake structure of which they are now functionaries. They were taught how to be fake. Their management is full of flakes and fakes. So they go along to get along. To do that means to be a fake. They are not the only ones though. They’re but part of something larger. Perhaps in the future their output, reviewed as art**, was the canary in the coal mine.

    Final point. Stellantis is governed from Europe. The European management do not understand the market*** the Dodge brand is located in. Nor do they understand the culture and history of Dodge. They likely posses the hubris not to care.

    *not all, obviously, but the majority appear to be.

    **which it ought to be

    ***for example, in Europe 300km is a long way, in the USA it is not. In the USA 200 years is considered a very long time in history, in Europe not. The experiences, habitual behaviours, thoughts and opinions, let alone the cultures, are nowhere near similar (beyond a superficial level).

    1. Very interesting your view from across the pond J T.
      It is quite often that us Europeans believe the US Americans to be the “easy believers” of any conspiracy theory or marketing making, whereas we the old continent’s habitants tend to “dig deeper” into things and not fell into any trap!
      But I am very keen on learning to see things the other way round so I would welcome any more info for reading if that you could and would providen

  15. What a very interesting can of worms Robertas (I suspect unwittingly) removed the lid from! And while I believe that J T is correct to question the mad rush to EVs I do not entirely recognise the Europe he (I presume he?) describes. Parts, perhaps, but not all. As for where the smart money is going, it all depends on how you define “smart.” Money is a concept – it is not real; it has no tangible substance and hasn’t done since Richard Nixon abandoned Bretton Woods in, was it 1971? The US dollar is the currency against which all others are still (but for how much longer?) measured and is only worth whatever the Fed says it is. Half a century on and we are seeing just how well that hasn’t worked out…..

    200 years is only a very long time in USA history because the (mainly) Europeans who settled there and began its history very deliberately chose to forget their own centuries of history which they’d brought with them.

  16. Returning to the topic at hand, my feeling is that Robertas’ write-up of the Hornet is by far the best I’ve read. The US “stuff” has been next to useless, really.

    Dodge doesn’t really exist as a separate entity. It’s a brand name, but has no dedicated engineering or production facilities. It is and has been a marketing department of Chrysler, then Mercedes, then FCA and now Stellantis. For a good 70 years or more.

    The current Dodge V8 musclecars are merely the 2005 Chrysler 300 in various disguises. The Durango SUV is/was just a big Jeep Grand Cherokee. All corporate designs with different badges.

    So, then consider the North American sales model. The dealers are Chrysler/Dodge/RAM/Jeep dealers. They sell everything the company makes, other than Alfas which are limited to a few unfortunates who believed Marchionne’s complete guff and took a flying leap into the unknown. Standard Chrysler dealerships used to sell the lowest of nonsense, the Fiat 500 and other assorted Fiat-badged rubbish, as determined by market forces. The word got around pretty quickly and sales died. The “Dodge” Dart was rushed out to meet Marchionne’s obligation to Obama to make and sell a 35 mpg car within a couple of years, in order for FIAT to be allowed to buy the remainder of Chrysler. That it accomplished. And it was overweight and under-engined, and built with all the shoddiness of a ’60s Detroit product. Obvious bodywork errors, the lot.

    The Huracane 4 cylinder 2 litre turbo engine is made in at least two versions, one with decent valvegear for Guilia and Stelvio, and one with cheaper bits. The cheaper version goes into Jeep Wranglers, and the 4 XE versions of it and the Grand Cherokee and presumably this new Hornet. It’s newly adapted for transverse mounting with the execrable ZF 9 speed automatic, which after seven years of grunt and sweat apparently works almost properly. It was a complete joke in 2o15 in the Chrysler 200 and Acura TLX, and various crappy Jeep crossovers. Now Nissan USA even uses it in Pathfinders.

    Now picture the average clueless buyer venturing into a Chrysler dealership. Those with no money and poor credit get shuffled to the Jeep Compass or Cherokee, maybe the Renegade as a last gasp of the old FCA Fiat brand. For the customer, a Dodge Hornet is just another vehicle on the showroom floor. The monthly payment compared to a Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, or a dozen alternatives is what matters most. THE most. The buyer will acknowledge the extra power of the Hornet over 90% of the competition and award it some value, but otherwise it’s just part of the white bread average crossover continuum. They can probably unload 60K per annum, and at least Chrysler has average service facilities, so they won’t be stuck with a useless object, as Dave continually reminds us Alfa and PSA service centres at dealers are in Europe.

    The Dodge fraternity who buy ancient musclecars aren’t interested in the Hornet, but as a marketing exercise, some manager at Chrysler will run the program and hope for the best. That about sums up its initial fate. Since there is a shortage of new cars to sell of any make, if Hornets actually appear for sale, they’ll be bought. Whether the vehicle is any good or not hardly matters for now. In the longer term, we’ll have to wait and see whether Italian production facilities can make this beast properly. For the same money, I’d take a Mazda CX-5 turbo – at least it is a known well-made product, but Mazda is suffering production nightmares in Hiroshima with chip shortages, so there’s that.

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