The Mazda MX-5 Miata will provide the architecture for a new roadster from Mazda and Fiat.
The Mazda MX-5 Miata will provide the architecture for a new roadster from Mazda and Fiat. Mazda

Mazda Motor Corporation (Tokyo: 7261) and Fiat Group Automobiles S.p.A. (ETR: FIAT) will jointly develop and manufacture a new rear-wheel-drive, roadster sports car based on the next-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata for the Mazda and Alfa Romeo brands, the companies announced Wednesday.

Establishing technology and product development alliances is one of Mazda's corporate objectives and this announcement with Fiat is an important first step in that direction, Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda chairman, president and CEO said Wednesday.

According to the non-binding memorandum of understanding between the companies, the sports car will be manufactured by Hiroshima-based Mazda at its home plant. Turin, Italy-based Fiat and Mazda plant on the Alfa Romeo and Mazda marque vehicles being differentiated, distinctly styled, iconic and brand specific light weight, roadsters.

The Mazda and Alfa Romeo variants of the car will each be powered by proprietary engines unique to each brand.

It is especially exciting to be collaborating with such a prestigious marque as Alfa Romeo, Yamanouchi said. Mazda has struggled in recent years to overcome obstacles posed by the high value of the Japanese Yen and carried out a $1.67 billion share offering in March to raise funds.

Fiat has been moving to reintroduce Alfa Romeo vehicles into the U.S. market after an absence of almost 20 years. The company plans to release the Alfa Romeo 4C in the U.S. in 2013 and the Guilia sedan in 2014. However, there is no news on where the new Mazda and Fiat developed roadster will be sold.

This agreement clearly demonstrates our ... determination to grow it (Alfa Romeo) into a truly global brand. By partnering with Mazda, we will be co-operating with the recognized leader in compact rear-drive vehicle architectures, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said.

Rear-wheel drive cars are considered by many enthusiasts to be sportier and more maneuverable than front wheel drive cars. The choice of a rear-wheel drive architecture may indicate that Fiat and Mazda hope to capture market share and prestige among driving enthusiast and higher-performance car drivers.

Mazda Motor Corporation (Tokyo: 7261) shares rose almost 1 percent to 108 yen Wednesday. Fiat Group S.p.A. shares fell slightly over half a percent to €3.89 ($4.92).