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Mazda MX-5 to spawn Alfa Spider

International affair: Alfa Romeo and Mazda have signed an agreement that will result in a new MX-5-based Alfa Spider, a spiritual successor to the GTV-based Spider (left) that went out of production in 2006.

Fiat and Mazda sign deal to share Mazda’s next-gen MX-5 as Alfa roadster

Mazda logo23 May 2012

By RON HAMMERTON

ALFA Romeo will share Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 sports car from 2015, spinning off a born-again Alfa Spider from the Mazda-developed SkyActiv architecture.

The roadsters will both be made at the Japanese company’s Hiroshima plant but, unlike the Toyota 86-Subaru BRZ sports car twins, the Mazda and Alfa roadsters will have different styling and unique powertrains.

The surprise announcement was made jointly today by Mazda Motor Corporation and Fiat Group Automobiles, who said they were exploring further opportunities for co-operation in Europe.

The new MX-5 is expected to weigh considerably less than the current generation, with Mazda engineers telling GoAuto they were aiming for a sub-1000kg car, which again will be made in soft-top and hard-top configurations.

The new partners said they had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding for the development and manufacture of a new roadster for the Mazda and Alfa Romeo marques based on Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 rear-wheel-drive architecture.

“The Mazda and Alfa Romeo variants will each be powered by specific proprietary engines unique to each brand,” the statement said.

“The project assumption is that both vehicles will be manufactured at Mazda’s Hiroshima, Japan, plant with production for Alfa Romeo envisaged starting in 2015.”

22 center imageFrom top: Alfa Romeo 4C concept Mazda MX-5.

The starting date for the MX-5 version was not given, but some reports say it could be on sale as early as 2013.

Mazda Australia public relations manager Steve Maciver told GoAuto that the new MX-5, as a global car, would be destined for Australian showrooms.

He said Mazda would lead the development of the architecture for the new vehicle under its new SkyActiv chassis program, but Mazda and Alfa would develop their own styling and detailing, as well as supply their own powertrains.

As well, the dynamics of each vehicle would be tuned separately.

The deal – which is expected to be formalised later this year – makes financial sense for both companies, as such sports cars are low-volume propositions but expensive to develop.

Announcing the memorandum of understanding today, Mazda president and CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said that establishing technology and product development alliances was one of Mazda’s corporate objectives.

“This announcement with Fiat is an important first step in that direction,” he said.

“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 recognised as the best-selling roadster of all time.”

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said the agreement clearly demonstrated Fiat’s 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 recognised 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.”

The Alfa roadster – which is likely to revive the famous Spider nameplate at the Italian marque – might employ the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine from the upcoming Alfa 4C coupe that is scheduled to go into production at Maserati’s Modena factory in 2013.

The two-seat 4C’s engine will be mid-mounted behind the seats, and hooked up to a six-speed manual gearbox.

While the Alfa Romeo Spider went out of production in 1993, a topless version of the Alfa GTV carried the Spider nameplate from 1995 to 2006.

Mazda introduced its MX-5 (known in North America as the Miata) in 1989, and it quickly became the world’s most popular sports car.

Now in its third generation, Mazda has sold almost one million of the fun machines globally.

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