Alfa Romeo roadster to be twinned with Mazda MX-5

Published: 23 May 2012

Mazda and Fiat today announced a new deal to develop future sports cars jointly. A new affordable Alfa Romeo roadster will be built – in Japan – from 2015.

The non-binding memorandum of understanding covers the development and manufacturing of a new roadster for the Mazda and Alfa Romeo marques based on Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 rear-wheel-drive architecture, according to the statement issued this morning.

Alfa Romeo twinned with Mazda MX-5: the lowdown

The statement said: ‘The study calls for both Mazda and Fiat to develop two differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand-specific light weight, roadsters featuring rear-wheel drive. The Mazda and Alfa Romeo variants will each be powered by specific proprietary engines unique to each brand.

‘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.’

CAR understands that the positioning of the Alfa Romeo will be akin to the Duetto driven by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. A simple, no-frills sports car in the mould of the MX-5. Rear-wheel drive is guaranteed and the roadster will benefit from Mazda’s SkyActiv programme of weight-saving and fuel-sipping technology, so it should be lightweight and responsive in the best MX-5 tradition.

The final agreement will be finalised in the second half of 2012 – and this could be the precursor to numerous joint initiatives in Europe. Both companies said they were willing to discuss further cooperations, as they seek to find greater volumes and efficiencies.

Sergio Marchionne on the new Alfa Romeo-Mazda deal

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

Mazda top brass are similarly glowing about the new Italian-Japanese relationship.

Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda’s president and CEO, said: ‘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.’

By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet