FCA wants to trademark 'Hornet' and 'Dodge Hornet' names

FCA’s trademark binge on March 6 isn’t the only time this month that the automaker’s appealed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Motor Trend discovered two applications FCA submitted on March 3, one for “Dodge Hornet,” the other simply for “Hornet.” The automaker requested to reserve both names in Canada and Mexico, too.

The only time Dodge has ever used the Hornet name was on a chunky, four-door subcompact hatchback revealed at the 2006 Geneva Motor Show, planned for the European market with a 170-horsepower engine developed with BMW. Crowds loved the car, encouraging Chrysler to find a way to put it into production. What followed was three years of aborted platform-swapping efforts first with Chinese automaker Chery and then with Nissan before Chrysler gave up. In 2009, analysts suspected new owner Fiat might try to get a Hornet done on one of the Italian automaker’s European platforms. Nothing came of that, either, FCA opting to resurrect another historical nameplate for the Dodge Dart sedan in 2011.

If a new Dodge model gets the Hornet label, the best guess for a product that needs to succeed in North America is a crossover. With the Grand Caravan soon headed to pasture and the Journey expected to follow soon after, the brand will be left with a big sedan, a big coupe, and a big three-row crossover. A reborn Hornet could pick up where the concept left off, slotting into the compact space left by the outgoing Journey and where models like the Nitro and Caliber once lived. Another guess posits something a little larger, based off the Chrysler Pacifica platform, to lower development costs and increase utilization at the Windsor, Ontario, plant that builds the Pacifica and Grand Caravan. Or the Hornet could be a PSA Group model reworked into service for our market; that opens up the size choices, although PSA is moving all of its products to two platforms, both front-wheel-drive based.

It’s possible Dodge won’t do anything with the name, the recent application nothing more than an attempt to reserve company property. Hudson reserved Hornet in 1950 for a sedan built from 1951 to 1954. After Hudson merged with Nash to form AMC, AMC used the name on a compact sedan built from 1969 to 1977. Chrysler took over AMC in 1987, letting the Hornet trademark expire in 1992. Chrysler filed for Hornet again in 2005, abandoning the effort in 2010, filed yet again in 2011 and gave up again in 2015, and filed one more time in 2015 before abandoning the third time in 2018.

What makes this time different is that FCA left Hornet in limbo for two years until this month, and before this month FCA never tried to trademark the term Dodge Hornet. Only the automaker knows what’s happening; the rest of us must wait to find out if any of Dodge’s new product carries a stinger with it.  

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