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Dodge Hornet nears reality

Published: 25 January 2007

Isn’t the Dodge Hornet just another look-at-me concept car?

The waspishly named – and styled – Hornet concept was shown at last year’s Geneva Motor Show, but it’s edging closer to a showroom near you. Thomas Hausch, Chrysler group’s international director for sales and marketing, told CAR Online that plans were moving apace for a production version of the butch supermini. ‘We have signed a letter of intent with Chinese manufacturer Chery,’ Hausch told us. ‘We are still at the discussion stage but talks are going well. The Mini has shown that a small car can work in the US - like the 300C has proven, it could even be sold at a price premium.’ Ah, the penny drops. Dodge wants the Hornet to be its version of the hyper-successful BMW-built Mini. The Hornet would be sold at distinctly larger-car prices, with an average of thousands of pounds spent on lucrative optional extras. Or, at least, that’s the idea.

So what will the Hornet be like?

Dodge is all about attitude these days. The Hornet looks squat and menacing, and looks chunkier than your average supermini: in fact, it’s Focus width and Fiesta length, sitting plump on concept-car special, 19-inch wheels. Although the general dimensions could be retained for production, show-car frippery like the monster alloys and rear-hinged back doors clearly won’t be. The show car had a supercharged four-pot engine, mustering 170bhp and Dodge talks of the Hornet having a sporty character. Owners will be able to customise their cars inside and out – just like the Mini’s range of highly profitable options. Hausch remains confident the Hornet has a showroom future. ‘The concept car has researched well, we wouldn’t want to compromise it too much. Our concept cars tend to come through.’ Dodge had been considering tie-ups with manufacturers including Volkswagen in its search for a partner to build the Hornet.

What else is Dodge up to these days?

Europeans have been more familiar with Dodges badged as snakes than wasps; the Viper SRT-10 sports coupe is the brand’s best known car over here, but the company is branching out into ever more mainstream sectors. The Hornet would slot beneath its Golf-rivalling Caliber as the brand’s supermini. But Dodge is also introducing its first five-seat SUV, the Nitro, this July while its first Mondeo sector car, the Avenger, arrives in September. The American brand is intent on further growth in 2007 with these new models; the Chrysler group posted record sales last year in the UK, passing 20,000 registrations for the first time.

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet