Fiat and Mazda will join forces to develop a new sports car

By Editors on May 24, 2012 4:43 AM

Mazda Motor Corporation and Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. plan to co-develop a new rear-drive roadster model that will be sold by both Mazda and Alfa Romeo. Announced in a non-binding memorandum of understanding, this collaborative effort will result in two distinct vehicles, each based on platform architecture that will underpin the next-generation of Mazda's MX-5. Few specific details were released on either of these new roadsters, save for confirming that each will be an iconic, lightweight rear-drive offering with unique styling and be fitted with a brand-specific proprietary powertrain. Manufacturing for both is slated to take place at Mazda's home base in Hiroshima, Japan. While the upcoming Mazda MX-5 is expected to hit showrooms sometime in mid-2014, production of the new Alfa Romeo model - which may or may not resurrect the classic "Spider" name -- won't begin until 2015.

While it may seem an unlikely marriage at first glance, this strategic pairing of Mazda and Alfa Romeo has the potential to turn into a major win-win situation. The Japanese automaker has been looking for a partner that can help bolster its troubled financial situation, and the fortuitous timing of this program also will assist in amortizing overall development costs of the new MX-5. For its part, Alfa clearly stands to benefit from Mazda's undisputed expertise in creating precisely this type of vehicle - which now will be further enhanced by the incorporation of the automaker's revolutionary SkyActiv technology. In commenting on the linkup, Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda's Representative Director and Chairman of the Board, President and CEO noted: "Establishing technology and product development alliances is one of Mazda's corporate objectives and this announcement with Fiat is an important first step in that direction. It is especially exciting to be collaborating with such a prestigious marque as Alfa Romeo on a new roadster based on the next-generation MX-5, which is such an iconic vehicle for Mazda and recognized as the best-selling roadster of all time."

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was equally positive in his assessment of the ramifications of this deal. "This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand. By partnering with Mazda, we will be co-operating with the recognized leader in compact rear-drive vehicle architectures in order to deliver an exciting and stylish roadster in the Alfa Romeo tradition. We are appreciative of this collaboration with Mazda and look forward to maintaining a fruitful and continuous relationship."

Whether this new roadster model will have any impact on the future of the highly anticipated, mid-engine Alfa Romeo 4C model that's scheduled to go on sale here next year remains to be seen.