I am sure that news about Alfa’s and Mazda’s hookup with the Mazda MX-5 caught a lot of us by surprise. Though cars such as the Alfa Spider and MG were the first to burst on the scene, neither of them was very reliable so their following was limited to the very loyal.
|2010 Alfa Romeo Pinifarina|
If imitation was the best form of flattery, then the Mazda really flattered. It had the charm of an MG with bulletproof reliability. This coupled with its simplicity, light weight and handling prowess meant it was an essentially unbeatable combination – something that offered good looks and wind in the hair driving without driving you to bankruptcy. And unlike other sports cars, Mazda stuck to the formula with the 2nd and 3rd generation Miatas – or MX-5s as they are now christened.
|The MX5 Miata|
Other automakers tried to muscle in on the fun. Toyota with the MR2, Honda with the Del Sol and most recently, Pontiac with the Solstice. The MR2 probably offered slightly better handling with the midship engine location and Pontiac looked better but no one could make as good an all-round package as the MX5. So if you are not bringing anything significantly better to the party, you might as well stay home. And so the MR2, Solstice and Sky were sent home.
Of course, developing a ‘halo’ car to be built in relatively small quantities gets very difficult. And Sergio Marchionne, shrewd as he is, saw that and went directly to the ‘bee-hive’. So Fiat/Alfa Romeo could get the honey by letting Mazda get hold of the money…sorry,… I meant nectar. Looks like a win-win as long as the two cars do not share anything visible to the buyer.