By on May 23, 2012

Back when I was searching for my first car, I briefly found an Alfa Romeo Spider that looked like it would be in passable condition. Before I could even call the number from the classified ad, my father chimed in with his usual wisdom. “Oh, you don’t want to start with those. They were crap! Just get a Miata and finish!”.

Now, after 25 years of utter dominance, the Miata has finally consumed the last icon of European two-seaters, the Alfa Romeo Spider. Mazda and Fiat signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly develop new, lightweight roadsters specific to each brand. Both would be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant. While the new MX-5 is just around the corner, the Alfa would start production in 2015.

Alfa Romeo cars, particularly vintage ones, have an enormous following in Japan, and the tie-up with a “premium” brand will reflect well on Mazda, which is saddled with financial troubles and a gloomy future, despite a new wave of promising product. Unfortunately for Miata owners, it will be hard to harp on Alfas for oil leaks, electrical issues and other maladies once Mazda starts building the Spider to the Miata’s superb level of reliability.

The big question here is the implications for Mazda and a potential Fiat alliance. Mazda has been adamant about forming partnerships in order to ensure its survival, and Sergio Marchionne told Automobile this month that a broader partnership with Mazda would be attractive. When you think about it, a Mazda/Alfa partnership isn’t too much of a stretch…

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21 Comments on “Mazda/Alfa Romeo Roadster Alliance: The Bright Side Of Consolidation...”

  • avatar

    Sure. Let the Italians sculpt the body but just keep them away from the toolbox.

  • avatar

    From now on, whenever Miata is mentioned, I will say something like this: Mazda, make it in a hardtop hatchback/shooting brake style, and you will outsell that Subie 86 thing!

    • 0 avatar

      And when someone mentions Miata, I’ll say: Just make it affordable.

      A “simple” sports car should not cost a lot. When they first came out, Miatas were only expensive when the greedy dealers tacked on a few thousand bucks to the sticker. Now they’re much heavier, more complicated, and far more expensive – and not selling all that well (not all due to Mazda’s efforts, I realize this.)

      Mazda, please return to the “roots” of the Miata: light, nimble, just enough power (with lots of potential for tuners), uncluttered styling, and an affordable pricetag.

      If you want to add variants like a shooting brake, cargo van, or whatever – that’s great – just be sure to have at least one version that’s true to what made the original Miata such a massive success.

  • avatar

    Marcelo de Vasconcellos
    May 23rd, 2012 at 11:38 am

    i like pie: The perception is outdated. Even back in the day Fiat engines were known to live forever (with maintenance). What triggered this perception , I believe, is yes interiors could flall apart, and they were late in the use of galvanized steel, so the cars would look terrible after a couple of ears. They have now solved these problems (I believe and have experience of it). But major systems like engine and suspension were never a problem.

    Sorry, not true. Back in ’79 when I was a tech at a FIAT/Lancia/Subaru dealership, I routinely saw: X1-9 front ball joints fail at 20K miles. Mass buy-back of 128s where the body would crack behind the front wheel wells, the crack would meet in the center…and the car would collapse under hard braking. Maintenance? Yep–while the other cars would specify 60K-mile timing belt changes, with a Fiat if you didnt change the belt at the specified 24K miles you’ll wish you had– the belt would break and bend every valve in the engine. The Lancias were even worse–even all that plus there was no flex joint in the exhaust system to allow for engine movement. Broken exhaust manifold studs,oil leaks, cracked exhausts, etc.
    I realize that was then and this is now…but there was a reason the Italians(AND French AND British)left this market.
    Besides, what with the Japanese and now Koreans, do we really need other players here?

    • 0 avatar

      You’re right. Timing belts went soon, but at least here it’s something everyone is aware of. But it’s cheap to change and there were reasons for it. It made the engine easy to build and maintain and made it well-baçlanced. It was, however, an evoltutionary dead-end. Even Fiat is now moving away from it and adopting chains. But it was just a part of the car.

      As to the other problems I’m not very well acquainted with that particular model. It sold well in US i guess ’cause of style. But, it was an old car, from an old project. After that much more modern cars have come along, and are roughly on par with peers.

      Though French and Italians moved out of NA back in the day they have soldiered on elsewhere. The British have disappeared but Fiat and Renault/Peugeot/Citroen survived. And there are pleasures to be had in these cars not readily available on American/Japanese/Korean/german cars. I for one am glad I can choose. My tastes are different from most but I can appreciate a Challenger, a Cube, a 500, a Fusion, a Mustang, a DS3. Though I really find nothing appealing in a Camaro, a Genesis, a Cerato, a Jetta.

      I’m just glad theese choices exist, or do you subscribe to the vision we should all just buy a CivicCorollaJettaSeries 3 and be done with it? No, the more the merrier.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep i was at the local Euro car dealer getting a very overpriced Citroen door handle and I see cambelt brochures for Alfas stating every 60k km cambelt change hell the belt on my Citroen is good for 100k kms why cant Italian cars have those sort of intervals but no your Italian shitbox is 36 months or 35k miles.

  • avatar
    Ex Radio Operator

    There is a reason the Spider died in 1993. It was competing with a well designed, well built roadster from Japan. The Spider, MG, and Triumph died because they were crap. The Miata succeeded because it was well built and reliable. The 21 year old Miata sitting in my driveway is proof that with normal maintenance they last practically forever. So, let the Italians have all the input they want, just let Mazda build it.

    • 0 avatar

      The real reason the Alfa Spider died was because they never refreshed that particular design which more or less dated back to 1967. It still had a live axle rear end for cripes’ sake. Of course the Miata blew it away- the Miata had 20 years of technology on the Alfa Spider.

      • 0 avatar

        And yet, today, a 20 year old Miata looks like a dinky little economy import, while an Alfa Spider will turn heads at every intersection – guaranteed. There is something to be said for timeless design, and the Italians understand that concept better than anyone.

        Maybe this partnership with Mazda will teach them some of the other concepts as well…like reliability.

  • avatar

    Let’s get one thing straight, the perception is still pretty much the same, although the REALITY may be outdated. Fiats in the U.S. were attractive but suffered from durability issues. I know of at least three friends who had X19’s which went through 3 engines (each!). And a couple of friends who also had 124 Spyders where the oil leaks could NEVER be stopped. Fiat has stated that they will use Fiat/Alfa engines in the new joint-venture roadster. I for one will not be trading my Miata for an Alfa; let someone else be the ginea pig.

  • avatar

    While it’s unfair to call upon reliability impressions from more than a few years ago – have a look at – the Reliability Index from Warranty Direct, a UK auto warranty organization. Alfas have been sold across the last decades in the UK and rather than “Billy Bob says…” have a look at the 3 Alfas listed. Just a hint – firmly in the “poor” range.

  • avatar

    My wife graduated college in 1989. She had her choice, Miata or Spider.

    God Bless her, she took the Spider. It rests peacefully in the garage as I write.

    Was the Miata a better car? In every way…yes.

    And the Alfa has…soul.

    No contest.

  • avatar

    Hopefully they do what Audi has done for Lambo. Let the Italians style it, then turn it over to the Japanese to build properly.

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