A Mazda-Fiat deal to develop a sporty roadster jointly helps Mazda Motor Corp. as it seeks global partners, but the scope of the project is so small that the Japanese carmaker still will need to collaborate more with Fiat or other carmakers.
For Fiat Group, the deal confirms Chrysler-Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne's willingness to work with other automakers for the sake of cutting costs. It also brings Fiat slightly closer to Mazda, a company that Marchionne has named as a potential partner as he seeks to raise volumes substantially.
The roadster, to be based on the current Mazda MX-5 Miata, will be built starting in 2015 at Mazda's plant in Hiroshima, Japan. Mazda will sell it as the MX-5's successor, and the Fiat Group's Alfa Romeo brand will sell a version with distinct styling.
The project will help loss-making Mazda eke extra volume from its beleaguered operations in Japan, which export nearly 80 percent of their output and are getting hammered by the yen's surge in value against the dollar and other foreign currencies.
It also helps Mazda spread the cost of developing another niche vehicle that might be hard to finance as the company reels from four straight years of losses.