Italians have a reputation for building alluring, hopelessly pretty, fragile roadsters—witness the Alfa Romeo Duetto from The Graduate, for starters. Now, however, Alfa Romeo’s overlords at Fiat are aiming to partner up with Mazda to take “fragile” out of the equation with a new generation of barchettas.
The next Alfa Romeo roadster will be based on the Miata, which ironically takes some of its inspiration from those early Italian roadsters. They’ll be separated by different engines—the Alfa Romeo could use a turbocharged 1.8-liter engine as seen on the 4C Concept, with somewhere north of 230 horsepower. And the next Miata has been privy to a host of speculation. Both will be built in Mazda’s plant at Hiroshima and sold under their own brands. And yes, both will have different styling and positioned away from each other in the market; the Alfa could go slightly upmarket against the BMW Z4 and the Mercedes-Benz SLK, while the Mazda will remain the cheap performance bargain it’s always been.
“This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand,” said Sergio Marchionne, the CEO of Fiat. “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.”
The collaboration couldn’t come at a better time. Mazda has been bleeding money the last few years, despite a slew of new product. And Fiat’s European operations haven’t been doing well, despite its inroads into the American market. Both cars will be sold in America and Europe alike, and won’t come any sooner than 2015. By then, Dustin Hoffman will be 78 years old. A little beyond his role in the 1967 movie, but still never old enough for bright red sports cars.