The next-generation Mazda MX-5 will underpin a new Alfa Romeo two-seater as part of a newly formed alliance between Mazda and Fiat.
Mazda and Alfa’s parent company Fiat Group Automobiles have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see the Japanese and Italian companies combine forces to develop an all-new, rear-wheel-drive roadster that will go on sale in 2015.
The new roadsters will not be near-identical twins like the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ rear-wheel-drive coupes. A joint statement from Fiat and Mazda stressed the two models would be distinctly different, with differentiated styling and engines.
Alfa Romeo will release a new two-seater sports coupe called the 4C in 2013 (concept pictured above), which has yet to be confirmed for right-hand-drive production. Logic dictates the model that follows two years later could become a 4C Spider (rendered in an artist's impression in the main image) despite being based on a different platform to the coupe.
The Mazda MX-5 relationship also guarantees a 4C Spider would be available for markets such as the UK and Australia.
"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 Mazda president and CEO Takashi Yamanouchi. "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."
Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the move proved its ambitions for the Alfa Romeo brand and that the roadster could just be the start of a deepening partnership with Mazda.
“This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand," he said. "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.”
The Alfa Romeo roadster is set to be built alongside the new MX-5 at Mazda's Hiroshima plant in Japan, though a final agreement on the project is not due to be signed until the second half of 2012.
Mazda is struggling financially and is searching for partners now that Ford has sold all but two per cent of a 33 per cent stake it once owned in the Japanese brand.
The project will help Mazda share the burden of development and production costs for a model that, while the world's best-selling roadster, is still a niche vehicle compared with the likes of its Mazda3 small car and CX-5 SUV.
Mazda boss Yamanouchi-san told CarAdvice last year that he couldn't rule out a future Mazda MX-5 that, to limit investment costs, was combined with a replacement for its rotary-powered RX-8.
The company is also seeking buyers for its new range of SkyActiv fuel-saving-focused technologies, which debuted in their most complete form yet in the new Mazda CX-5 compact SUV and will feature on the all-new MX-5.