Dodge chief Tim Kuniskis got online last night with Bill Goldberg to introduce North Carolina man Preston Patterson, the brand’s new Chief Donut Maker. During a Q&A with reporters, Kuniskis was asked about the coming electric and electrified vehicles. As part of one answer, he said, “I think we’ve actually even said when we get back into the small compact space this summer when we launch the Hornet, we will have a PHEV or variant of that.” In fact, this was news to everyone, confirmation that a Hornet plug-in hybrid is coming in a few months.
There have been rumors for a while, heating up in 2020 when Fiat Chrysler America filed to trademark the name Dodge Hornet. The temperature rose again last August when Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares gave a presentation showing Dodge would launch a PHEV in 2022. The pot of rumors began to boil when an image supposedly taken in Stellantis’ Pomigliano d’Arco Assembly Plant in Naples, Italy claimed to show glimpses of the Hornet’s front fascia and cockpit. The location was key because the Hornet is based on the Alfa Romeo Tonale (pictured) and is predicted to be built in the same plant, Tonale assembly happening at that Naples facility. Last night, Kuniskis also said the Hornet’s production site is already out of the bag, unofficially.
Dodge’s desired reveal timeline for the compact PHEV crossover is what the brand calls Speed Week in August in Detroit, between the Roadkill Nights street racing event on Woodward Avenue and the Woodward Dream Cruise. Roadkill Nights hasn’t been finalized yet, but the Cruise happens on Saturday, August 20, so sometime the week of August 15 is the Hornet’s planned window. However, with Kuniskis saying industry turmoil has turned all planning into Jell-O, the August date is tentative.
As for the drivetrain, we’re expecting the Hornet to pack the Tonale’s 1.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that turns the front axle, paired with an electric motor on the rear axle. That system in the Tonale will bring 272 horsepower in the U.S., but it’s not clear how the Hornet will be tuned. The Dodge might trim the corral the same way Jeep did with Europe’s Compass 4xe in order to make the Alfa the clear luxury proposition, or it could get a few more ponies to stress Dodge’s muscle car philosophy. The latter take could fulfill the promise of the Dodge Hornet concept from 2006. As Sam Fiorani of Auto Forecast Solutions told The Detroit News, “If [a crossover is] under $30,000, it’s usually packaged and sold as transportation, lifestyle vehicles with price being key and fun-to-drive being secondary. [The Hornet] could potentially break open a market for Dodge, especially if they can keep the price low enough.”
And speaking of Dodge muscle cars, Kuniskis said he wants to show the battery-electric snorter before the Hornet, but an issue “outside our industry” is preventing the ability to nail down a reveal.