Speaking to CarAdvice at the launch of the new Fiat 500X in Sydney yesterday, Pat Dougherty said the perception that the 124 Spider is just an MX-5 in a different guise is not true.
“I think the story is just a little bit different [than just a badge-engineered MX-5],” Dougherty said.
“The story was that Mazda wanted to come to market with an MX-5 and we wanted to come to market with a 124 Spider and what happened was we were talking with Mazda, and we obviously have a decent relationship with them and have done things in the past with them, and the opportunity was there and we said ok let’s do something together.”
According to Dougherty the deal was beneficial for both companies to satisfy volume requirements.
“I don’t think as a single product out of their plant, it necessarily said they have enough volume to make it make sense so we did a joint development and our development has different sheet metal, different powertrains, different look and feel and it’s not like we just badge-engineered the vehicle. When they designed that car, they hadn’t seen the Mazda, every panel on the outside is different.”
Fiat Chrysler Australia’s senior manager of corporate communications, Andrew Chesterton, explained that the 124 Spider is far more different than most realise.
“[It’s a] different engine, different gearbox, every piece of metal on the outside of that car is different, the vast majority of in inside above the belt line is different, there’s so much about that vehicle that changes.”
Nonetheless, Olivier François, head of the Fiat brand and chief marketing officer of FCA, who was also in Sydney for the 500x launch, admitted that the similarities to the MX-5 are very much there.
“It is,” François said when asked if the 124 Spider is a badge engineered MX-5.
“I mean it is, it’s partly true. It’s not a perception… but it’s undeniably a product of collaboration with Mazda, I am not going to deny, it’s the truth. But we worked on the engine. The 1.4 is made in Italy. The whole design is obviously made in Italy.”
The Fiat 124 Spider is expected to land in Australia late in 2016.