REVIEW: Mazda, Fiat and Alfa Romeo are to collaborate on a brand-new series rear-drive roadster models, writes Dave Moore.
As we reported, Sergio Marchionne has aligned his Chrysler/Fiat group with Mazda. This has come in the form of a non-binding memorandum of understanding for the co-development and manufacture of a new roadster for the Mazda and Alfa Romeo marques based on the next-generation MX-5. The final agreement on the memorandum is expected be signed in the second half of this year.
Marchionne is committed to creating rear-drive sports sedans based on the Chrysler 300, the underpinnings of which can be traced back to the Mercedes-Benz E-class. However in the absence of a lightweight modern rear-drive platform, Marchionne's wish to return to the hallowed times of rear-driven Alfa and Fiat sports cars was seen as impossible to fulfil until the wily Italian was able to align his company with one that already had one.
Which is where Mazda comes in. The Fiat/Alfa and Mazda memorandum calls for Fiat and Mazda to develop two distinctly differentiated, uniquely styled, iconic and brand-specific light weight roadsters, with the different cars each driven by their own engines unique to their brand.
Mazda and Fiat say the vehicles will be manufactured in Hiroshima, Japan plant.
Production of the Alfa Romeo-designated car is set to start in 2015, about a year after the appearance of the series IV MX-5.
"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," Mazda chief executive Takashi Yamanouchi 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."
Meanwhile Fiat chief executive Sergio Marchionne says the agreement "clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a 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 benefits for Mazda include the ability to amortise the costs associated with new model development, which are known to be very heavy for the popular MX-5 which demands special attention to weight-saving and its handling dynamics.
For Fiat/Alfa, the biggest gain will be in terms of reliability and the ability to fit in with Marchionne's wish to return his iconic Italian sports car brand to the United States with rear-driven cars.
- © Fairfax NZ News