In the 1960s and 1970s, if you wanted a small, lightweight rear-drive roadster, the two nations of origin that had the formula down to a science were the U.K. and Italy. But if you were born since the beginning of the Carter administration, the name most synonymous with affordable two-seat roadsters has undeniably been Mazda. Need more evidence? Consider that Fiat, corporate parent of storied Italian sports car maker Alfa Romeo, has chosen the Japanese company as its partner on its next-generation small roadster project. In fact, even the Alfa-badged roadsters will be rolling off the line in Hiroshima come 2015, but with Alfa-specific engines, of course.
Due to the global economic slowdown earlier this year, and currency fluctuations affecting profit margins, Mazda put out an open call to the auto world that it would welcome joint-ventures, technology sharing or other ways for it to leverage its surplus production capacity, as well as its new powertrain technologies, such as its line of high-compression Skyactiv and low-compression, low-emissions Skyactiv-D diesel powerplants. Since that time, Mazda has announced agreements with Toyota to build a next-generation subcompact model in Mexico for the North American market, and now, an official collaboration with Fiat for the new Alfa Romeo Roadster.
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne stated at May's preliminary announcement that Mazda was the "recognized leader in compact, rear-drive architectures," a distinction Mazda has earned over the last 25 years, with the MX-5 Miata becoming the world's best-selling two-seat convertible.
Source: Mazda, Fiat