Alfa Romeo and Mazda spider/roadster combination: dream come true

I haven’t been this excited about a coming motor vehicle for some time, but yesterday’s press release stating that Mazda and Fiat would be combining their resources to produce both the next generation MX-5 and a new Alfa Romeo Spider is music to my ears.

Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. (Fiat) and Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda) have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for 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.

The study calls for both Fiat and Mazda to develop two differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand-specific light weight, roadsters featuring rear-wheel drive. The Alfa Romeo and Mazda 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.

I’ve never owned an Alfa Romeo Spider but I have owned several Alfa Romeos in the past and currently own a 1985 Alfa Romeo GTV6. Alfa is one of those marques that most people have at least a small affection for. It’s said that even Enzo Ferrari Henry Ford used to tip his hat when an Alfa went by, such was his respect for his fellow Italian racing competitors. Like many storied brands, however, Alfa’s impeccable racing pedigree is mostly a distant memory. Whilst recent models have maintained Alfa’s penchant for beautiful styling, they haven’t always delivered in terms of driving experience.

I’ve also owned a Mazda MX-5 in the past, albeit for a short time only. My MX-5 ownership suffered from the fact that I sold a beautiful Alfa 33 16V in order to buy it and I missed the Alfa too much to really enjoy the MX-5. It was quite a fun car and well suited to the old automotive cliché about go-kart handling. The early models were somewhat underpowered, however, and whilst more recent models have more poke on paper, they’ve also gained a considerable amount of weight. I’ve read elsewhere that Mazda are hoping to bring the next generation MX-5 back under 1,000kg and I think that’s a fantastic move.

The prospect of taking Mazda’s proven MX-5 handling and build quality and adding some Alfa styling and powertrain pizazz to it is enough to put some steam in a man’s strides. It’s a partnership well worth exploring and I can’t wait to see what the two companies come up with.

I’ve been quite concerned about Alfa Romeo’s future over the last few years. Fiat closed the Alfa museum in Italy a year or so ago and it’s never reopened. Whilst they’ve announced firm production plans for the boutique 4C model recently, the current Alfa range is limited to just the MiTo and the Giulietta. They desperately need a larger car in the near future and whilst this new Alfa Romeo Spider doesn’t fill that need, it does provide some reassurance that Fiat are serious about building the Alfa Romeo brand.

Time for a Snoopy dance!

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13 Comments

  1. I’m crazy about the potential of such a marriage, too 🙂

    Alfa can have a new Duetto with a pure architecture and a refined and robust chassis (of the greatest provenance for the small roadster genre) instead of a group sourced fwd platform… It’s the stuff of dreams! 🙂

    (I’m dreaming of a small Giulia coupé or even a GTA -like the 60’s ones- on this platform… To dream is for free!)

    1. Absolutely. I’m 42 now and I know I won’t be able to buy one new, but this is most likely the shameful and embarrassing mid-life crisis vehicle that I will drive right through my 50s. Should be awesome 🙂

  2. New owners of Saab listen up!

    Make a new Sonett happen. Crazy? Well the Saab Cabriolet wasn’t seen as something viable at first.

    Cheers/Tom

  3. SNOOPY DANCE IS RIGHT! many partnerships in the automotive world just make me scratch my head in amusement and bewilderment. I just hope they can pull off a winner much like Subbie and Toyota have done with the BRZ. May have to keep my 9-3 convertible till 2015!

  4. Does anybody happen to know the difference between a company (tradition, expert knowledge, manufacturing facilities, devoted drivers, own technology) and a brand (little stickers front and back)?
    Alfa is dead.

    1. Was it less dead after they begun using Fiat platforms in the early 70’s? 😀

      That’s oversimplification, I believe… A company is more than a platform, engine or technology… It’s about strategy and intention.

      An Alfa has a purpose, and that purpose can be brilliantly accomplished through a third party platform if Alfa makes it suit their intents (as Saab competently did, for instance).

      1. To my best knowledge, this is not correct. The 164 was a co-development with Fiat and Saab, but not a Fiat platform. Even the previous generation 147/156/166 had its own, Alfa specific platform (much to the sorrow of plagued 166 drivers, as the car apparently was a bit to heavy for its base). And even the 159/Brera/Spider had its own dedicated (Saab developed) platform, though unintentionally. Only the latest generation of mini cars, the MiTo and the Giulietta, are in fact based on corresponding Fiat models, and are build in Fiat assemblies (the 159 still had its own dedicated assembly close to Naples). And concerning strategy and intention, I would agree if it were the strategy and intention of Alfa folk. But it is now only Fiat. No own development centre, no own plant, nothing.

  5. Will the engine be based on the Mazda twin cam, which is a copy of the Alfa twin cam? This has the potential to be so self-referential that it’s more pastiche than transportation.

    I wish them the best, of course, but that won’t happen unless engineers kill every “retro” idea that marketing sends their way.

    Also, they need to hire some ex-Saab engineers to work on corrosion prevention. I don’t know how modern Alfas do on that front, but current Mazda products are unbelievably bad. Mazdas rust more in one year than Saabs do in 15.

      1. So there’s a good chance that the Mazda will sport a copy of an Alfa engine, but the Alfa won’t. Maybe the Alfa version should offer a rotary.

  6. “even Enzo Ferrari used to tip his hat when an Alfa went by”. Eh, I believe that was a certain Henry Ford. Though I’m sure that Ferrari as well would have tipped his hat when an Alfa went by. After all, all his pre-WWII racing successes were with Alfas.

    1. John, you’re correct. I always have problems when I write with haste. Enzo cried when he finally beat Alfas on the track (an affliction that I’m sure didn’t last too long 🙂 )

      Duly corrected.

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