Alfa Romeo Planning Miata-Based Roadster for 2015
Fiat and Mazda expect to start a joint manufacturing partnership in Japan.
The car, likely to keep the classic name Spider, will be produced in Japan shortly after the new Miata debuts in the fall of 2013. Mazda is reportedly shifting the Miata back to its 1989 roots, with ultralight curb weights and smaller dimensions, as well as using the company's new fuel-efficient Skyactiv engines and transmissions. It will, of course, retain the obligatory rear-wheel-drive, a setup that has made the Miata one of the best-handling, best-priced sports cars on the road. Alfa Romeo will use its own engines and likely call upon legendary Italian design house Pininfarina to sculpt the body.
"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," Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement. The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding that will be formalized later this year.
The last 2-seat Alfa was the Brera Spider (pictured above), a front-wheel-drive model that left the European market in 2010. Another front-wheel-drive Spider, based on the GTV coupe, offered both 4- and 6-cylinder engines from 1995 to 2006.
Alfa Romeo, owned by Fiat, hasn't sold a rear-wheel-drive roadster since the original Spider ended production in 1993 after nearly four decades. Alfa quit the U.S. market that same year, for many of the same reasons Fiat exited a decade earlier (reliability, small sales, threadbare dealer networks).
For the past five-plus years, Alfa Romeo has made on-and-off statements about returning to the U.S., including importing 99 examples of the 8C supercar, but only after Fiat's majority stake in Chrysler have the rumors started to materialize. Maserati, also under Fiat, is planning to sell an SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee that will be built in Detroit. A pricier Alfa Romeo sports car, the 4C, will be made in Italy by Maserati.
We're not sure how Alfa would sell cars in the U.S., considering it probably would have to piggyback off Fiat's 130 dealers. While the $226,000 8C was sold through Ferrari-Maserati dealers, the Spider shouldn't cost even a quarter of that price. Sales of the Fiat 500 have been modest at best, so it's highly unlikely that existing Chrysler and Fiat dealers would invest in another one-off showroom for Alfa Romeo.
Whatever happens, we want to see this car, even for only a short while.
I think creating separate dealers for FIAT was a silly move, much less Alfa Romeo. FIAT/Chrysler spent so much effort consolidating dealers until you could only find a quad-dealer (Jeep/Dodge/Chrysler/Ram), then what do they do? Open a separate dealer network. I really think FIAT should have been tucked in with the regular Chrysler dealers.
And yes, they are FIAT Dealers, not FIAT "Studios". Call them what they are.
"In the same universe where a VW Touareg becomes a Porsche Cayenne. Like putting lipstick on a pig, eh?"
Sadly, car manufacturers do this all the same to maximize profits. The Lincoln MKZ is just a rebadged Ford Fusion, the Lexus ES is just a rebadged Camry, and the Cadillac SRX is just a rebadged Chevy Equinox with a CTS engine. Makes you feel like they are intentionally ripping you off, doesn't it?
"And a Maserati SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee built in Detroit, which will basically be a rebadged JGC?? In what universe does this make sense?"
In the same universe where a VW Touareg becomes a Porsche Cayenne. Like putting lipstick on a pig, eh?
Would you make the same comment if Maserati was partnering with Mercedes to use the ML platform for their SUV?
If Alfa Romeo is using its own engines, then there's no reason to choose it over a Miata with a Mazda engine with their known reliability. They might do OK with this in Europe, but I can't see a car that's a Miata twin (but without a Mazda engine) getting much traction in the US (pun intended).
And a Maserati SUV based on the Jeep Grand Cherokee built in Detroit, which will basically be a rebadged JGC?? In what universe does this make sense? This move is the automotive equivalent of putting lipstick on a pig and will only devalue the Maserati name.
I think the next time Chrysler gets in trouble (and with this strategy, it's inevitable) I vote to let 'em go under. Their products have been junk for years.
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