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Fiat Chrysler mulls more rear-drive models via Mazda tie-in

By John Carey, 05 Mar 2014 News

The Mazda/Alfa joint venture could look something like this

Shared MX-5, Alfa Spider platform could spread across multiple brands, Fiat Chrysler boss says

It was intended to provide Alfa Romeo with a new Spider, but now the deal with Mazda to co-develop the next-generation MX-5 may expand to include other Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brands.

The alliance, announced in 2012 and finalised early in 2013, had obvious merit for both companies, with Mazda gaining a partner to share design and development costs, while Alfa would get a lively rear-drive Spider to take the place of the lacklustre front-drivers that have lately worn the name.

Now it seems FCA is rethinking its side of the agreement. “It’s potentially still part of the Alfa plan, as it is potentially part of another brand,” FCA chief executive Sergio Marchionne told journalists gathered at Geneva.

“I think that the architecture itself is sufficiently pliable to be available not just to Alfa but to others, and I think that we are in discussions with our partner now how to best utilise the commitment that we have made to Mazda.”

Marchionne declined to elaborate on which other FCA brands might be able to create something credible on the MX-5’s light, rear-drive base, but Fiat and its Abarth performance arm seem an obvious choice.

Fiat has Spiders in its past, and an agile, two-seat sports car from the Italian brand would probably sell in higher numbers than a similar model from Alfa. A high-performance Abarth version would also make sense.

Marchionne made it clear that FCA’s rethink did not mean the co-development deal was in danger of falling apart.

“We remain committed to the project, and that’s the important thing,” he said. “We are committed to using that architecture with our powertrains.”