Did Dodge’s Hornet Just Throw the Alfa Romeo Tonale Under the Bus?

Stellantis, the parent company to both Dodge and Alfa Romeo, better watch it. The badge engineering it has embarked upon with the Dodge Hornet and Alfa Romeo is fraught with danger. Just ask GM. Its infamous badge engineering in the 1970s and 1980s contributed greatly to its bankruptcy in 2010. And that’s one reason why Alfa Romeo is mad about the whole thing. 

Can the Dodge Hornet and Alfa Tonale exist together?

The 2023 Dodge Hornet PHEV on the road
2023 Dodge Hornet PHEV | Dodge
Alfa Romeo Tonale
Alfa Romeo Tonale | Stellantis

Dodge unveiled the Hornet crossover just this week. Insiders say Alfa was shocked after seeing the Hornet, according to The Drive. The differences between the two models are minimal. But the price for each won’t be. 

It will be very difficult for Alfa, already struggling, to stand its Tonale next to a Hornet and say with a straight face the differences are enough to warrant a much higher MSRP. But Dodge needed something, anything, to get its product lineup back into the 2020s. 

Why did Dodge do the Hornet?

A black 2023 Dodge Hornet is driving on the road.
The 2023 Dodge Hornet | Dodge

The Hornet is its first new model in 10 years. “Dodge took advantage of the Tonale to make a compliance car-their Aston Martin Cygnet moment if you will,” a confidential source told The Drive. “Suffice it to say internal politics won the day, and Dodge needed to up their CAFE numbers, so Hornet was born.” 

That’s sometimes the way things work in Detroit. What appears to be one thing has many justifications and needs to fulfill. But other than the soft front bumper, grille, badging, and interior details, they’re identical. And, of course, social media is calling out Stellantis over this typical 1980s GM move. 

One problem was that there is no budget for making big changes. “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. For decades, Detroit manufacturers have said it is almost impossible to make money off of low-price econocars. 

Why is the Tonale a big deal for Alfa?

2023 Dodge Hornet
2023 Dodge Hornet | Stellantis
Alfa Romeo Tonale
Alfa Romeo Tonale | Stellantis

Alfa Romeo has been developing the Tonale for years. It was Alfa’s first new model in six years and was heralded as its most important car in years. Alfa expected it to be uniquely Alfa. But not now

It sees Tonale’s competition as being the BMW X1, Mercedes GLA, and Lexus UX. But now, the image of a cut-rate Dodge Hornet undercuts Alfa’s intentions and expectations. How can Alfa hold up the Tonale to its target competition with a straight face, with the Hornet hovering in buyers’ minds? 

Dodge DNA

2023 Dodge Hornet
2023 Dodge Hornet or Alfa Romeo Tonale? | Stellantis

A Dodge spokesman says, “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. The Hornet features unmistakable Dodge DNA with characteristic Dodge styling cues, such as a ‘mail slot’-style grille opening and a vehicle-width taillamp with a 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.

That same spokesman says the Hornet will be $10,000 less than a Tonale. Ouch. The base Hornet’s MSRP is $29,995. As unmistakable as the Dodge DNA must be, it will be interesting to see how different the two are once we can get our hands on them. But until then, this doesn’t look like it will end well for Alfa Romeo. 

RELATED: Is Alfa Romeo In Trouble With This Latest Shakeup?