Fiat and Mazda Developing Roadster Together

Fiat and Mazda announced plans to jointly develop and build a new roadster.  The car is expected to be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant and sold globally starting in 2015, according to a report by Automotive News.  The Fiat version will be sold as the Alfa Spider in the United States as the brand reenters the world’s largest two-seat sports car market, the United States.  The Mazda version will be the successor to the legendary MX-5/Miata roadster, which has been sold in the U.S. since 1989. Each of the cars is expected to have it own distinctive styling.  Details of the agreement should be finalized later this year, and it does not involve any sort of corporate merger.

The new car will be of a lightweight, rear-drive configuration based on the MX-5 architecture.  Developing a new vehicle is very expensive and this will allow the pair to share the development costs.

Fiat and Mazda are also talking about further cooperation in Europe, they said. Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that the automakers are discussing a partnership to expand overseas sales channels.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said: “This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand.”

By collaborating with Mazda, Alfa will be cooperating with the recognized leader in compact rear-drive vehicle architectures to deliver an exciting and stylish roadster for Alfa, Marchionne said.

UBS auto analyst Tatsuo Yoshida said: “The MX-5 is an iconic car in Mazda’s line-up, and the lightweight roadster is part of its heritage as a maker of sporty cars. But developing the next iteration for Mazda alone would have been difficult to justify, and this arrangement allows them to do that.”

The agreement paves the way for Mazda to increase its capacity utilization through Alfa as the Japanese carmaker seeks to end losses. For Fiat, the deal may help the company gain access to Mazda’s engine and lightweight technology.