By on March 4, 2014

2011_Mazda_MX-5_PRHT_--_04-28-2011

Long rumored to wear the Alfa Romeo badge, the next-generation Mazda MX-5 may instead don a Fiat or Abarth necklace in 2015 if Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne has the last word.

Automotive News reports sources close to the project stated product planners from Mazda and Fiat met recently to discuss a roadster based upon the MX-5. Fiat’s planners are looking for a way to maintain the supply partnership deal with the Japanese automaker, lest the break-up leave Fiat in the red through 2016, when they hope to return to the black in their native Europe.

As for why, Marchionne has proclaimed that no Alfa will be made outside of Italy so long as he is CEO, a statement reinforced as recently as the 2014 Detroit Auto Show; Marchionne plans to head FCA until 2017 at the earliest.

The so-called heir to the throne abdicated by the Fiat Duetto Spider made famous by the film “The Graduate,” the Italo-Japanese roadster may find a home with Fiat or Abarth, too underpowered be paired with Ferrari or Maserati, while Lancia retreats into its home market as a one-model brand by the end of 2014.

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36 Comments on “Fiat, Abarth Likely To Receive Mazda-Based Roadster Over Alfa...”


  • avatar
    NN

    smart branding move, IMO. Alfa Romeo may not be in a strong position today, however, with future FCA margins looking brighter (thanks to Chrysler), the time will come soon where they can invest in their products. Keeping the brand as pure as possible will make it more desirable for future buyers in the US, China, etc….should Alfa ever actually get to that long-awaited expansion. I would love an Alfa, but not a Japanese, Canadian, or Mexican one…I want the real deal.

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      I disagree. The most important thing right now is that the car sells, which it will do far better under the Alfa brand. In this case, I don’t see the car devaluing Alfa so much as increasing awareness of the company, especially in the US. It will do a far better job at brand awareness than the 4C, which will hardly be noticed by mainstream car buyers.

      Besides, sports cars are generally becoming seen as a luxury item, because it takes some means to have a toy. Branding the car as an Alfa – and giving it a premium interior and engine to distinguish it from the Mazda – would have gone right in line with the entry-level luxury idea. Branding the car as a Fiat puts it head to head with the Mazda in the economy space. They will both lose.

      I think this is a huge mistake.

      • 0 avatar
        Tosh

        As if! If FIAT goes head to head with Mazda, then Mazda wins! Anyway, I want a Miata hatch…

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I agree with imag.

        Maintaining the “purity” of a brand is only a positive if the perception of that ‘purity’ is positive.

        Do Americans have a positive perception of cars *made* in Italy? Sure, there are the exotics that Americans love, but do they love them because they were *made* in Italy? I seriously doubt it.

  • avatar
    GoesLikeStink

    I could go for a Fiat Spider, if it looks better and costs about the same as a Miata

  • avatar
    Steve65

    Fiat Duetto Spider? ITYM…

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Wasn’t the car in The Graduate an Alfa, not a Fiat?

    And I would love it if we could get a Miata chassis with gorgeous Italian styling.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      You and me both! I love the way the Miata drives, but it looks like a Pokémon on crack. Ugh.

      I would be perfectly happy with something that looks like a Fiat Spider with an Abarth badge.

  • avatar
    Morea

    “The so-called heir to the throne abdicated by the Fiat Duetto Spider made famous by the film “The Graduate … ”

    *Alfa Romeo* Duetto Spider

    “Sheesh, Alfa gets no respect I tell ya” (apologies to the late Mr. Dangerfield.)

  • avatar
    Ion

    Alfa needs products though.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Well, there is the 4C, and, and, and … the 4C convertible! That ought to be enough!

      If not, I’m sure there will be more models in 2017, and Alfa will sell 800,000 cars in 2018.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey th009!

        There’s also the MiTo and Giulietta and…and…is that it?

        If this comes to fruition (and I think it may well do), Alfa may have been postponed again. Which is just as well as the coming Alfa comeback must produce a splash. Maybe Sergio is on to something, showing discipline. Like they showed in holding off the Cherokee launch until everything was dandy. It could be someone in the company is thinking along those lines, holding off until they’re really, really ready.

        Anyways, one can always choose to look on the bright side!

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Yes, in Europe, but I doubt Giulietta (and especially MiTo) are coming to the US. Especially the current models.

          Yes, I’m expecting a delay as well, hence my comment about 2017, only partly tongue-in-cheek.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Return of the Fiat Barchetta?

  • avatar
    joeb-z

    It sounds more and more like Alfa is a dead brand. If the new Miata has a Fiat variant, it also does not need to be very different from the Mazda performance or cost wise. Then you add the Abarth version.

  • avatar
    James2

    Sergio keeps yanking Alfa around. He needs to make up his mind, otherwise Alfa will continue to be the vaporware of the car world.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      Alfa should be at a higher price point. Selling an Alfa at Miata prices would defeat the purpose.

      The problem for Alfa is money. When there is more cash available, then I would expect to see movement there.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        So ask a higher price point. Give it a better interior, better looks, and a bit more horsepower. People will pay a $5K premium for those characteristics plus an Alfa badge, and it would allow the platform to capture a wider range of buyers.

        Pitting the Fiat directly against the Miata makes no sense.

        EDIT – just realized I am agreeing with you.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Thing is at that point, does Alfa need a 30-40k roadster and a 50-60k roadster in the same showroom?

          If it were badged as a Fiat and sold starting well under 30k, it can give the 4C some room to try and justify itself.

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Well with Alfa I think they could get away with 2 roadsters. Plus, the 4C isn’t really a roadster, its a mid-engined coupe with a targa top option. Kind of like how Ferrari has the 458 and the California.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            If they’re positioned too close in price, it’s too much hair splitting. The same kind of customer could easily cross shop both. Why have 2 completely different cars to capture the same customer?

            I agree that Alfa needs to go up market, but this roadster needs to be down market.

          • 0 avatar
            ect

            It’s been done before.

            My first car was an Austin-Healey Sprite. I lusted after the 3000, but it was far beyond my budget.

            MG sold both the Midget and the B, Triumph had the Spitfire and the TR4.

            In every case, the exotic model (in relative terms)has a halo that helps sell the more mundane car. And those who buy the halo car know they’re getting something above and beyond the lower-range model.

            Makes perfect sense.

          • 0 avatar
            MarcoIta

            I agree with you Danio. When the deal was announced first, I had several such doubts about the opportunity of a Japanees Alfa. But if we talk about FIAT/Abarth then it makes really sense. Just think that FCA could market a FIAT 124 + an Abarth version in the FIAT studios which are currently not fully profitable. This would set up a sustainable portfolio with 500, 500L, 500X, 124 + the Abarth editions… and this sounds consistent from both industrial and market standpoints.

        • 0 avatar
          Pch101

          Alfas generally should be priced above the Miata.

          This particular car probably should not be, which makes it best suited to carry a Fiat badge.

          If Alfa’s role is to serve as FCA’s version of BMW, then this car probably won’t fit well into that role — the economy car roots may be hard to conceal.

          What Alfa really needs is something to compete against the 3/4-series. But that requires R&D spending from a company that is still trying to rebuild its balance sheet. The company priorities have gone to other segments first, and understandably so.

          • 0 avatar
            th009

            “The company priorities have gone to other segments first, and understandably so.”

            28 years under Fiat ownership now, and counting. But apparently they will get product Real Soon Now.

  • avatar
    vent-L-8

    This seems short sighted to me. The ONE THING Alpha has in this country is the memory/legend of the Spider. Instant brand recognition that you can’t buy. People don;t think of Fiat for fun 2 seater the way they remember the Alpha.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    *yawn*

  • avatar
    robc123

    They have been doing PR’s on this for, what the last 4 yrs?
    mock up after mock up.
    When is the last time lots of hype surrounded a car ever pans out? (looking at you danny ex-ceo lotus guy)

  • avatar
    Dark_Side_of_the_car

    Now I can get a Fiata!!

  • avatar

    Although I love the Alfa badge I think an abarth anything would b a raw thrill. This is not so bad news if you think about it. Also if it’s a fiat it can releave the designer from having to integrate the Alfa grill which I think Alfa is still struggling with in the modern era

  • avatar
    bobman

    A Mazda based Alfa wouldn’t fit in with FCA’s latest videos ending with “Pure Alfa Romeo”. Nothing wrong with mating it to the Fiat or Abarth brands.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I would also love to see Fiat (or Alfa) deliver the “Miata coupe” so many people seem to want. They might be able to justify the development costs if they can spread it around different brands.

  • avatar
    MGV001

    Thank you Sergio! Maybe there is hope for Alfa Romeo after all.


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