2012 Mazda MX-5 Miata

The next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata will have a sibling, but it won't be a Mazda, it will be an Alfa Romeo. The Japanese automaker has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Alfa parent Fiat to co-develop a roadster based on the MX-5 platform that is expected to see production in Mazda's Hiroshima factory, with the Alfa version coming in 2015.

Pegged as "a successor to the MX-5," the production date will push the next-gen Miata's arrival back a bit. In 2010 it was predicted we'd see the new Miata this year, with its 2,200-pound weight target, 50/50 weight distribution and potential twin-backbone chassis structure. Obviously that isn't happening.

Whenever the new model and its Alfa mate do come, each brand will get "differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand-specific light weight roadsters featuring rear-wheel drive," using in-house engines provided by their own brands.

The link-up is excellent news for Mazda, the small, independent company searching for just these kinds of "technology and product development alliances" to help rescue it from years of losses, and supporting CEO Takashi Yamanouchi's assertion that it's "partner or die." The negotiations also include further cooperation between the two brands in Europe.

Fiat head Sergio Marchionne's search for partnerships to provide scale is no secret, nor his desire to improve Fiat's position in Asia, which Mazda might also be able to assist with. And the idea of a properly sporting Alfa would be welcome round the world; with the loss of the Brera GT and Brera Spider in 2010, the Alfa line is down to two hatchbacks and a long-in-the-tooth sedan, none of them particularly sporty. With the 8C Spider beyond most budgets and the 4C still living in the ether, it's been almost 20 years since the then 33-year-old Alfa Spider represented (or was meant to, at least) the kind of purposeful, two-seater Alfa being announced here.

The final agreement should be finalized later this year, and you can scroll down to read the press release.
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Mazda Press Release: Mazda and Fiat announce co-operation program

(23-05-2012) -- Mazda Motor Corporation (Mazda) and Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. (Fiat) 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 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.

"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 recognised as the best-selling roadster of all time." said Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda's Representative Director and Chairman of the Board, President and CEO.

"This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it 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." said Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne.

The Final Agreement is expected to be signed in the second-half of 2012.

Mazda and Fiat have also agreed to discuss further opportunities for co-operation in Europe.