Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Alfa Romeo and Mazda announce sports car tie-up

THE successor to Alfa Romeo's achingly beautiful Spider could be one of the most mouthwatering sports cars ever created.

Fiat, the Italian automotive giant which owns the Milanese motor makers, has announced that not only is it working on a new two-seater roadster, but that it's joined forces with Mazda, the makers of the best-selling sports car of all time, to create it. In three years' time, if the two companies play to their strengths, you'll be able to buy a car with classic Italian styling and the fun-to-drive factor of the MX-5.

I saw a mid-nineties Spider being driven along Southport's seafront on a sunny summer afternoon the other day and really, really wanted to be the chap behind the wheel. It never really took off with Brit buyers in the same way the Mazda did, because while the MX-5 had a rear-wheel-drive set up singlehandedly designed for being sporty, all Spider's since the model's '94 reinvention have relied on front-wheel-drive bits from the Fiat Group parts bin. Not that any of that mattered with the savvy souls who did take the plunge, because the reason why you bought any Spider was because of the way they looked. They were and still are, a delight to behold.

So the news that Fiat and Mazda are planning to join forces is brilliant news if you care about simple, small, two-seater sports cars (and, let's face it, chances are if you read Life On Cars you almost certainly do).

Mazda president Takashi Yamanouchi, knows this full well, and said this week: "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."


The two companies plan to develop two different, distinctly styled, iconic and brand-specific light weight, rear-wheel-drive roadsters. The Mazda and Alfa Romeo variants will each be powered by specific proprietary engines unique to each brand, although both are expected to be built at Mazda's factory in Hiroshima, where it's made the MX-5 in its various iterations for more than 20 years.

The deal, which is expected to be finalised later this year, also includes the scope for further tie-ups between Mazda and Fiat. Does that mean we can have finally have a follow up to one of the best-looking sports cars of all time, the Fiat Barchetta?

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