The all-new 2023 Dodge Hornet crossover debuted this week, becoming—perhaps somewhat shockingly—the first product the Dodge brand has released in a decade. Yet, a source inside parent-company Stellantis tells us that not everyone in the company is happy—namely Alfa Romeo.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that the Dodge Hornet and Alfa Romeo Tonale are basically the same car with minimal changes. According to a source within Stellantis who spoke with The Drive on condition of anonymity, the Tonale started as primarily an Alfa Romeo project; but internal politicking, and a desire for Dodge to raise its low average fuel economy numbers, saw the Alfa Romeo Tonale morph into the Dodge Hornet. And now the Alfa Romeo side of the house is none too happy about it.
“Dodge took advantage of the [Tonale] to make a compliance car—their Aston Martin Cygnet moment, if you will. Suffice it to say internal politics won the day, and Dodge needed to up their CAFE numbers, so Hornet was born.” said the source.
The two crossovers appear to share many of the same body stampings, like doors, fenders, and underlying unibody structure; in short, all pieces that are probably too expensive to change. For many, the similarities between the two cars are unignorable, and they’ve let Stellantis know in the comments sections of articles, and on social media. “It’s annoying to have to be on the defensive,” said the source, frustrated at seeing folks rightly calling out the two cars for looking so similarly.
To add insult to injury, the source said that the budget just didn’t exist to meaningfully change more sheet metal on the Dodge Hornet and distance it from the Tonale, at least visually. “Margins are thin in the C-segment, particularly in non-lux, so an OEM is pretty limited on all new sheet metal as that’s a major investment from a tooling perspective,” said the source.
To be fair, Alfa Romeo’s hyped-up return to the North American market in 2016 after 20 years away hasn’t exactly been a roaring success. The company invested billions of dollars into the Giulia sedan and Stelvio crossover, but neither vehicle has lit the sales charts on fire, no matter the country they’re sold in. Yet, the small, lux-ish crossover is a hot class internationally. The segment could use more good-driving, enthusiast-oriented choices—Alfa Romeo is generally good at creating a car that drives well.
Thus, when the Alfa Romeo Tonale was unveiled, many Alfa Romeo enthusiasts and news outlets alike called it “Alfa’s most important car in recent memory.” In theory, the Tonale should have all the right stuff to muscle its way to the top of the sales charts, it promises a good driving experience and attractive styling. The Tonale is aimed upmarket, playing against crossovers like the Lexus UX, Mercedes Benz GLA, or BMW X1, and could have the same level of sales and strategic importance that the Macan does for Porsche.
Yet, a nose job, new lights, and a very slight restyling of the interior have the Tonale seeing service as a downmarket Dodge, undermining the Alfa Romeo’s upmarket intentions. The merger between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and France's PSA Group has a whopping 16 brands, many of which have product lines that vastly overlap.
Still, a representative for Dodge says that interest in the Hornet is strong.
“Customers seem to be very happy with the Dodge Hornet, with more than 14,000 orders received in less than 24 hours after its reveal,” a Dodge spokesman said via email. “The Dodge Hornet features unmistakable Dodge DNA with characteristic Dodge styling cues, such as a ‘mail slot’-style grille opening and a vehicle-width taillamp with center illuminated Dodge Rhombi logo, and unique performance features such as on-demand PowerShot for Hornet R/T, which supplies a burst of 25 additional horsepower.”
The spokesman added that the Hornet’s pricing should undercut its Alfa Romeo sibling by some $10,000. “Pricing for the Hornet GT starts at $29,995, with the Hornet R/T starting at $39,995 and the vehicle will be marketed to performance lovers who want a vehicle that drives like a Dodge, looks like a Dodge and sounds like Dodge,” the spokesman said.
Media drives of the Alfa Romeo Tonale and Dodge Hornet haven’t happened yet, so only time will tell if Stellantis has figured out a way to distance the two cars in the driving experience. Dodge seems confident that its iteration will be unmistakably Dodge, whatever that means.
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