Alfa Spider to use Mazda’s SkyActiv tech; lightweight, rear-drive roadster is due in 2015 in a deal that could lead to further Fiat/Mazda collaborations

Alfa Romeo will finally launch a replacement for the iconic Spider in 2015, after Fiat Auto signed a provisional deal last week to base the car on the next-generation Mazda MX-5.

According to outline plans, Mazda and Alfa will develop two “differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand-specific lightweight roadsters, featuring rear-wheel drive”. The two models will also feature “proprietary engines, unique to each brand”. Both cars will be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan. 

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne used the announcement to counter persistent rumours that the Italian company would eventually dispose of the ailing Alfa Romeo brand. "The agreement demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand," he said. 

With the binding agreement on the deal not due until later this year and production of the Spider some three years away, there is very little firm information available about the likely shape of the new Alfa. 

However, the new car is likely to be light and, for range-topping versions at least, potentially very rapid, thanks to a new version of Alfa’s highly respected 1750cc turbocharged petrol engine, which is due for launch early next year. The new engine, which has an aluminium block, high-pressure fuel injection and a maximum output of 296bhp, is designed for both transverse and longitudinal mounting. It should make its debut in the 2014 Alfa 4C mid-engined baby supercar.

The two new roadsters will be based on Mazda’s radical new SkyActiv lightweight steel spaceframe technology, which already underpins the new CX-5. Mazda engineers will use the same know-how, but the platform will be designed from scratch because it is both rear-wheel drive and particularly compact. 

However, because the MX-5 is two years from being introduced, it means that Alfa engineers can get involved at an early stage with the design and engineering of the new platform. This opens the way for the two roadsters to be pitched at different markets. 

Mazda sources say the company wants to take the next MX-5 back to its 1989 roots by making the new model more compact, less plush and lighter, bringing the weight down to under 1000kg in base-engined form.

Alfa Romeo, by contrast, will probably want to pitch its relaunch model upmarket, which might demand its version be more visually imposing than the Mazda. A wider track, more voluptuous styling and a plusher interior are likely for the new Spider. There’s no news on the look of the car, although any new Spider aimed at the North American market will have to make reference to the classic ‘boat tail’ Spider immortalised in the film The Graduate. 

It seems likely that this will not be the only co-operative project between the two makers. “We are appreciative for this collaboration with Mazda and look forward to maintaining a fruitful and continuous relationship,” said Marchionne. Mazda, meanwhile, said that establishing technology and product alliances is one of its corporate objectives.  

Loss-making Mazda, which has been hit by the strength of the yen, has been struggling to finance its future product development programme and its desire to build a new factory in Mexico. In February this year it raised £1.2 billion through a share issue. Forming alliances and sharing its SkyActiv engine and platform technology is widely regarded as an urgent necessity for such a relatively small company.

Join the debate

Comments
8

1 June 2012

An Alfa with Italian styling and Japanese build quality - perfect combination. I'd have shuddered if it was the other way round - an MX5 built by Italians...

1 June 2012

Alfa Arna?

At least it's the other way round this time!

5 June 2012

Anyone seen the proposed new MX5?,have seen artist impressions,seems they might go corporate with it and stick the new family nose on it, i think it's hideous,what's the collective's views?

Peter Cavellini.

2 June 2012

In many ways, the original Mazda6 is Mazda's late response to 156, bigger and without the premium aspirations but with a healthy dose of driveability and style. Note the pentagonal grille was near triangular with top-centre placement of brand emblem, with number plate plinth put slightly below line of slim taillights because putting it at bumper level would have been too obviously a copy.

I would have liked to see it get back with Suzuki with its seriously good lineup of cars, but with VW in the way, at least it finds a viable non-destructive partner that could enhance its reputation - at least for reliability!

 

2 June 2012

AE have also shown some renderings of what they think this new Alfa will look like. It has many similarities, but looks, in my opinion, rather better than this one, which is spoilt by the heavy chrome eyebrow at the top of the grille. Both images, though, prove how much better the looks are when they don't try to ape the 8C frontal treatment.

As far as the Mazda version goes, all the images i've seen so far have unfortunately featured the new Mazda front grille, which I think is a clumsy and amateur design. Its the sort of thing an up and coming brand would have fitted to try and look more premium. It looks poor on the CX-5, and on the MX5 its just wrong.

 

2 June 2012

Interesting...

2 June 2012

And if anthing like the Pininfarina 2uettottanta, mouthwatering. Knocks the 4C into a cocked hat for me.

  • Let depreciation be your friend...

4 June 2012

To: FIAT CEO Sergio Marchionne

If you are unsure of your commitment to Alfa Romeo then let them go. You can no more manage Alfa than you could Ferrari. When you stuck your hand in to Ferrari, their cars stopped sticking to the road.

Stick to what you know, small mass market cheap run abouts and stop pretending you know anything about any other business.  It has been shown for 2 decades that it is not Alfa Romeo that is bereft of hope and ideas but FIAT.

Either let Alfa be run solely by Ferrari, or sell them. 

Emotion can not be hampered by corporate blindness.

 

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week