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Fiat gets set to drop the top

Bare bones: Mazda’s SkyActiv architecture for the next-generation MX-5 will also sit under a new Fiat “specialty” car due in late 2015.

Planned “specialty” car points to Fiat sportscar based on Mazda MX-5 from late 2015

Fiat logo7 May 2014

By RON HAMMERTON

FIAT appears set to gain the Mazda- MX-5-based sportscar originally earmarked for Alfa Romeo under a model-sharing agreement between Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) and the Japanese company.

A five-year product plan outlined by FCA executives in Detroit today indicates that a new “specialty” model will be launched by Fiat at the end of 2015 in North America and Europe.

Although FCA made no mention of the “specialty” car going on sale in the Asia-Pacific region – which includes Australia – GoAuto understands that Fiat Chysler Group Australia has been assured it will get the vehicle as part of its premium car line-up at some point.

The new Mazda MX-5 is due in Australia some time in 2015, but the Fiat version is unlikely to arrive before 2016 – perhaps a year or more after the Mazda – if time lags on other right-hand-drive Fiat products are any guide.

Alfa also has a mystery “speciality” car for launch between 2016 and 2018, but European speculation is that this vehicle is a higher-performance Quadrifoglio – cloverleaf – version of the new 4C roadster, perhaps featuring one of Alfa’s new high-performance four-cylinder engines being developed with Ferrari.

In the case of the Fiat, it most likely will get a more mainstream Fiat-Chrysler four-cylinder engine. Nevertheless, the car has been mooted as the flagship of the range, sitting above the 500X and 500 Arbarth.

The joint-venture Mazda-Fiat sportscar will share the new Mazda-developed SkyActiv underpinnings shown at the recent New York motor show, but with separate powertrains and body styling.

The car is to be built for both brands in Mazda’s Hiroshima plant – another indication that the car will be going to Fiat, because FCA executives were at pains to point out that all Alfa Romeos within the five-year plan will be made exclusively in Italy.

The timing of the Fiat car is also in line with the 2015 timing originally announced by FCA in 2012, when it said it had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding for a joint Mazda-Alfa roadster to be built at Hiroshima.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne hinted at the recent Geneva motor show that the sportscar would not necessarily be built under Alfa badges – a hint that most observers took to mean that a new Fiat Barchetta was in the wings.

Neither Mr Marchionne or Fiat CEO Olivier Francois threw any direct light on the sportscar’s future, beyond showing a graphic indicating the new specialty model emerging in 2015, along with the Fiat 500X crossover due to be formerly launched at Paris motor show this October ahead of an Australia rollout about the end of 2015.

Fiat has outlined plans to push upmarket in Europe in an effort to recapture some of its lost gloss and improve profitability in a flat market environment that the company believes will continued to flatline for the foreseeable future.

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