In a surprise announcement that is bound to excite Alfa Romeo fans, the Fiat Group and Mazda revealed today that they have signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the development and production of a new roadster model for the Mazda and Alfa Romeo brands based on the rear-wheel drive architecture of the next MX-5.
"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 two automakers said in a joint statement, adding that each car will be powered "by specific proprietary engines unique to each brand".
According to the plan, the next Mazda MX-5 and Alfa Romeo's successor to the Spider will be manufactured at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant in Japan, with production for the Italian model to begin in 2015.
With the exception of the limited production 8C Competizione Spider (2008-2010) and the RZ (1992-1994), the last time Alfa Romeo had a roadster with a front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout was the classic Spider built from 1966 to 1993. This particular model was featured in the 1967 movie The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman.
The next two generations of the Spider (based on the GTV and the Brera coupes) had a front engine, front-wheel drive layout.
Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne had this to say about the agreement: "This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand."
He continued: "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."
Mazda CEO Takashi Yamanouchi said that he is excited about the prospect of working together with a respected brand like Alfa Romeo.
"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 recognized as the best-selling roadster of all time," said Yamanouchi.
The two automakers said that the final agreement is expected be signed in the second-half of 2012 and that they have also agreed to discuss further opportunities for co-operation in Europe.
The new Mazda MX-5-based Alfa Romeo Spider will be a global model, and yes, if all goes according to plan, it will be offered in North America.