Benvenuto l’Alfa Miata! Mazda X Fiat collab announced

And so it comes full circle. In 1989 Mazda launched the template for the modern roadster, the MX-5 Miata. It was so pure in formula that the Japanese model name was simply “Roadster,” a tribute to British and Italian droptops of yore. Except they weren’t really of yore. Alfa Romeo’s Spider was still clutching onto the segment for dear life with technology that was three decades old, and yet somehow that was the US market’s roadster of choice.

The rise of the Miata ushered in a new era of top-down two-seaters like the BMW Z3, Porsche Boxster and Mercedes SLK, driving the final coffin nail into the very roadsters that inspired it. Alfa retreated from our shores into the waiting arms of Fiat, where Italy’s GM slowly sucked out any remnants of its soul.

Yesterday in Japan Mazda announced that a new tie-up with Fiat that will give Alfa Romeo the MX-5 platform for an as of yet unnamed roadster. Cue African “Circle of Life” chant!

In this age of mega-corporations, to simply compete on an even playing field a “small” automaker like Mazda (or even Chrysler) must join hands with a soulless industrial juggernaut. Usually such tie-ups end pretty tragically (we’re looking at you, Nissan-Renault and GM-Saab) but we have hope for the new Alfa Miata.

Both companies are known for spirited driving, but only one was also known for its engineering prowess. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the one thing Alfa Romeo, widely regarded as the most passionate and beautiful of marques, sorely lacks.

The marriage of free spirited artist and brilliant brain surgeon has the potential to yield beautiful children. That said, it all depends on the execution. Have Alfa sculpt one of its gorgeous, curvaceous bodies on bulletproof MX-5 running gear and you have a legend like the Ford-powered DeTomaso Pantera. Slap a badge on it and call it a day, and you have the Cadillac Cimarron.

The news comes as a surprise even to Mazda engineers who are working on the next-generation MX-5. The project had experienced unexplained holdups from top brass, and now it’s clear why. Mazda is not massive enough to survive on its own, and for it to continue two lines of sports cars with an enthusiast focus (they are promising a return of the rotary) it has to team up with someone. Might as well be Fiat.

The first time Mazda built a roadster they killed its Italian forbearer. The second time around they’ll resurrect it. Instead of grumbling, Mazdafarian purists can wear that Racing Mate decal and drive off with pride.

[Images: Mazda]

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20 Responses to Benvenuto l’Alfa Miata! Mazda X Fiat collab announced

  1. Kevin T says:

    Interesting to see what will come out of this pair up.

  2. E-AT_me says:

    i believe just last week i was telling someone that mazda was struggling..

  3. gaijinshogun says:

    Ben, I guess we finally have closure on the Quadrifoglio & Racing Mate discussion..

    • Ben says:

      It should now be required of any MX-5!

      • gaijinshogun says:

        As a past & present owner of giulietta’s, duettos, and the last gen Spider, it’s a little sad especially when Alfa’s always had their own unique character. Driving “con brio” won’t have the same meaning. This is really gonna put some serious pressure on the Alfa 4C. It will be like having a Mazda Miata and a Lotus Elise in their line-up.

      • Ben says:

        Mazda’s always been fond of brio, using it in everything from the Mazda Spirit website to the RX-7 and RX-8 Spirit R.

        You’ll still be able to drive con brio, only the brio will be Jinba Ittai.

  4. toy_yoda says:

    …and so begins the battle for a modern, two seated, affordable sports car that most auto companies left back on the ’80s. In all fairness though, Mazda never left that idea behind. They have continued through to pump out miatas regardless of what thier competitors think is desired by the public. They have proven that sportiness and good fuel economy can share the same chassis…

  5. Dave says:

    I love both marques, so this is a bit of a dream team! As a Mazda fan, it’s great that the future of the Miata is that much more secure. As an Alfa fan, this is even bigger of a deal as it means Alfa finally will again have an affordable RWD platform. Fiat also makes great small cars, so this might give Mazda a partner in that segment as well. Just make sure to keep the Chrysler connection absolutely out.

    • Rotarylover89 says:

      ^agreed keep chrysler out of it…its bad enought mopar is putting together the FIATS for the North American Market and if this does mean they look back into R&D of the Rotary engine… :]]]] ’nuff said

  6. Mike says:

    What’s with the “Usually such tie-ups end pretty tragically (we’re looking at you, Nissan-Renault ” are you for real? One of the most succesful alliances in the business world? One that without a doubt saved Nissan. Wiithout the Renault Nissan Alliance there would’ve been no S15, no R35 GT-R. While I’d agree that things weren’t too good in the 2000’s this decade will bring a huge renaissance of quality product from Nissan, all made possible by the alliance…..

  7. dankan says:

    I am genuinely shocked no one has mentioned the Nissan Arna yet. That said, if Mazda can get FIAT to cover the costs of the new MX-5 and in doing so, needs to send a rebadged version Alfa’s way, so be it. So long as they can deliver on their goals for the new car, I don’t care what else they do in the process (this is hardly Porsche Cayenne level soul prostitution for either brand, anyway).

  8. dankan says:

    Also, the article is rather inaccurate. FIAT bought Alfa back in the late 1960s, around the same time they purchased Lancia (another brand they’ve generally failed to accomplish much with). The debut of the Miata did nothing to affect Alfa Romeo’s relationship with FIAT, but did guarantee that the Spider earned its well-deserved rest.

    • Dave says:

      I don’t think anyone these days would be dumb enough to put out another car like the Arna. Actually, come to think of it, there’s the *Chrysler* Delta and the new *Lancia Thema*… I doubt that’s what’s gonna come out of this partnership. And worst case scenario they’ll have a Miata just wearing an Alfa badge; worse things have happened. And Fiat actually didn’t take over Alfa until the mid-’80s; before then Alfa was more or less owned by the Italian government.

  9. Ben says:

    Mazda X Fiat collab? Unless this is some limited edition Nike Dunk x YoYoYoInsertDoucheTrendHere sneaker, the title should be Mazda and Fiat collaboration.

  10. Tyler says:

    I just want to see Mazda use the 4C to make a halo MX-7.

  11. Lincoln Stax says:

    According to the article in Autoblog, the Mazda will have a Mazda engine, and the Alfa Romeo will have an Alfa Romeo engine. Also, both will have completely different bodywork. Mazda’s got the cash they need from Sergio Marcchione, and Alfa Romeo gets the front-engined rear-drive sports car they’ve been missing for a long time now. It sure looks like everyone wins here.

  12. xs10shl says:

    Lots of Alfisti chanting “Oh, the horror!” on various message boards today- let them dream about the glory days half a century ago. I say: styled by Alfa, built in Japan, for sale in the US. What could be better?

  13. benji says:

    nice writeup, interesting stuff

    got me curious

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