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.