Dodge Pins Global Hopes on Dodge Hornet

Dodge Pins Global Hopes on Dodge Hornet

The Dodge Hornet concept debuting at the Geneva auto show has a twofold mission.

The Dodge brand wants to expand globally and needs an entry-level vehicle that is less expensive than the recently introduced 2007 Caliber hatchback. U.S. dealers want a car priced below the Caliber, too.

The result is the Hornet, a five-door concept with unusual proportions: It is 8.3 inches longer than a Mini Cooper hatchback and 2.0 inches wider than a Chrysler 300 sedan. It will debut Feb. 28 at the Geneva show. The automaker has not said whether the Hornet concept will become a production vehicle.

U.S. dealers “have been requesting a true, true entry-level vehicle” below the Caliber, said Judy Wheeler, who at the time of a Jan. 23 interview was director of Dodge car marketing and front-wheel-drive product planning. Last month Wheeler was promoted to vice president of marketing for DaimlerChrysler Canada.

The Caliber, a five-door hatchback, has a sticker price of $13,985, including shipping.

Additionally, “the B-segment is very big from an international perspective,” said Wheeler: “As we launch the Dodge brand internationally, we need to think about where is it that we want to grow.” Dodge will sell the Caliber in 98 countries.

Wheeler said the automaker “really got serious about two years ago” in determining what would be the right model for an international market.

“We met with Chrysler’s managing directors in other countries. We got information as far as ideally what vehicles they would like to look at,” said Wheeler. The Hornet is the result of those meetings, a relatively short vehicle with wide proportions.

The wide stance and tall roof creates an interior that is larger than expected in a car this size. The front seats are wide and tall. The rear seats fold forward and collapse to the floor, providing a flat cargo area. Concept features include a beverage cooler in the driver’s side rear door while the door opposite has a fold-out table.

Stylists fashioned a rally-inspired look for the exterior. The Hornet’s wide stance lends itself to adopting Dodge’s signature crossbar grille. The grille is above an exposed engine cooler that is flanked by air ducts for the front brakes. A large hood scoop funnels air into the engine.

Under the hood is a supercharged 170-hp, 16-valve 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. Chrysler estimates the 0-to-60 mph acceleration at 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 140 mph.

The Hornet name has roots going back to American Motors, and before that to Hudson Motor Car Co.