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Fiat and Mazda have signed an accord to develop jointly a new roadster that will be produced in Japan and tailored to the individual brands of the two carmakers.
Under the non-binding agreement, the carmakers will develop two different roadsters that will have unique engines and styles. The new roadsters will be based on Mazda’s MX-5 rear-wheel drive architecture.
Though the two companies said they would discuss further opportunities for co-operation in Europe, Wednesday’s agreement is limited to the roadster.
Mazda and Fiat are both considered by analysts to be not large enough to compete with their bigger rivals and are said to need a strong alliance with a competitor to ensure their long-term survival.
The Japanese group had an alliance with Ford dating back to 1979 but the US carmaker has reduced its stake to about 2 per cent from a third four years ago.
Takashi Yamanouchi, Mazda’s president and chief executive, said: “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.”
The Fiat roadster will be sold under the Italian company’s Alfa Romeo brand and will be built in Hiroshima, Japan starting in 2015.
Alfa Romeo is one of Italy’s iconic car brands but Fiat, which controls Chrysler, has had trouble making it profitable. Sergio Marchionne, Fiat’s chief executive, has remained committed to the brand and promised to expand its presence around the world.
Mr Marchionne said: “This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo.”
The final agreement between Fiat and Mazda is expected be signed in the second half of 2012. No financial details were released.