Fiat and Mazda have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for joint developent and manufacture of a new roadster based on Mazda’s next-generation MX-5 rear-wheel-drive architecture.
The two companies plan to develop two differentiated, light-weight, rear-wheel-drive roadsters from that architecture – one wearing the Mazda badge, the other Alfa Romeo.
Each will have distinct, brand-specific styling and they will be powered by separate proprietary engines, unique to the brand.
Both vehicles are expected to be manufactured at Mazda’s Hiroshima, Japan, plant with production for Alfa Romeo tentatively planned for 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," said Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda's President, CEO and Chairman of the Board.
Since cutting loose from Ford, by mutual agreement, Mazda has been looking for partners to share the development cost of some new vehicles and technologies that may be prohibitively expensive for a small company on its own.
The company is also said to be shopping its own 'Skyactiv' suite of technologies for potential use by other automakers.
"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... the best-selling roadster of all time," added Yamanouchi.
"This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand," said said Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne.
"By partnering with Mazda, we will be co-operating with the recognized leader in compact rear-drive vehicle architectures in order to deliver an exciting and stylish roadster in the Alfa Romeo tradition," he added.
The new Alfa Romeo roadster is expected to be at the forefront of the brand's return to the North-American market.
The final agreement is expected be signed in the second-half of 2012 and the two have also agreed to discuss further opportunities for co-operation in Europe.
Like Mazda, Fiat has been seeking collaborative agreements such as this with other automakers to spread development and production costs over greater vehicle volumes, thus making them more affordable.
Subaru and Toyota recently introduced the BRZ and Scion FR-S respectively, which were jointly developed using a Subaru architecture and basic engine design.