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Fiat, Mazda team up to remake Alfa Spider, MX-5

  • Cars in a parking lot

TOKYO — Mazda Motor Corp and Fiat SpA will join forces to make new versions of their most famous sports cars, the MX-5 and the Alfa Romeo Spider, helping the two companies cut costs and possibly paving the way for a deeper alliance.

A joint venture announced on Wednesday will not include any equity tie-up but joins a long line of partnerships which carmakers have forged, aiming to share research and development costs and keep prices competitive in a tough market.

The new cars will be based on a Mazda rear-wheel drive platform and will be built at Mazda’s factory in Hiroshima, Japan.

The Alfa Spider, famed for its starring role in 1967 movie The Graduate, will be made from 2015 and will be styled separately by the Italian company, so the engine and look will be Alfa Romeo rather than Mazda.

Alfa Romeo pulled out of the United States in 1995 and is already set to return in late 2013 with the planned 4C sportscar.

Some analysts expect the revamped Spider to boost Alfa in the world’s biggest two-seater sports car market and saw sales of around 20,000 a year.

Mazda’s MX-5, launched in 1989, is the best-selling two-seat convertible sports car in history, with more than 900,000 sold, according to the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011.

But Japan’s fifth-largest car maker is looking lonely on the global car alliance scene.

Ford owned a third of Mazda’s shares under a 31-year alliance, but had to sell most of its stake to raise cash and now owns just 2 per cent, leaving the Japanese company to link up with several rivals in joint ventures.

Cost savings from such deals have not been enough to save Mazda from posting four years of losses, as it struggles with a strong yen, which makes its cars less competitive overseas.

It builds most of its cars in Japan and exports almost 80 per cent of them.

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