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Mazda and Fiat join to build sports car


 

The roadster will be based on the rear-wheel drive MX-5 platform and built at Mazda’s plant in Hiroshima, Japan.

However the two cars will be given individual styling treatment – and carry different engines – for each of the badges.

A statement from Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said the joint project highlighted Fiat’s commitment to building Alfa Romeo 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 statement said.

Mazda hinted that the collaboration would be followed by others. “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,” the Japanese carmaker’s CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said.

The announcement said the Alfa-Romeo version of the car would start rolling off the production line in 2015, which means the new MX-5 could arrive in showrooms ahead of its Italian relation –possibly by early 2014 at the latest -- although Mazda is not ready to confirm dates yet.

“We haven’t made any announcement of a production start date for the next MX-5,” was all Mazda Australia spokesman Steve Maciver would share on the subject.

However he was clear on which side of the partnership would be responsible for development of the project – and why.

“Rear-wheel drive has been the basis of the MX-5’s success over the years,” he pointed out. “We will lead the development, with the project based on the next generation MX-5 platform with Skyactiv technology and the benefit of Mazda suspension tune and dynamics. However my understanding is that Alfa will use a Fiat powertrain.”

Both companies have been seeking partnerships in the crusade to trim costs and expand markets. Marchionne has said previously Fiat’s brands (including Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge) need to expand to annual global sales of 6 million – a 60 per cent rise on the 2010 total of 3.6 million.

Meantime Mazda, despite its success in the Australian market, had global sales of 1.3 million and is looking to head of a fourth year of losses by activating more volume at its factories.