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Alfa Romeo Spider To Return, Fiat And Mazda Partner On Roadster

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The Mazda MX5 Miata, pictured here, and the Alfa Romeo Spider will share the same underpinnings but get different body styles.
The Mazda MX5 Miata, pictured here, and the Alfa Romeo Spider will share the same underpinnings but get different body styles.

Fiat and Mazda announced Wednesday they're teaming up to build a new two-seater roadster.

It's as if two of the most gorgeous, but deeply flawed, kids in high school just announced they're having a baby.

Fiat and Mazda said in the announcement that they are pairing up to make a light-weight, rear-wheel drive roadster. With the recent joint venture of General Motors and Peugeot, it appears automakers are back looking for partners to expand their business lines, rather than just focusing on surviving the downturn in sales.

The underpinnings of the car -- built at Mazda's Hiroshima, Japan, plant -- will share the Mazda rear-wheel drive technology that it is planning for the next generation of the MX-5 model (more commonly known as the Mazda Miata), but the automakers will style different bodies for each brand. Each car will look different from the outside, and each will also get different engines.

Fiat's roadster will be sold as an Alfa Romeo Spider, and will be the second Alfa Romeo brought to the U.S. The automaker will reintroduce itself to Americans in the second half of 2013 with the Alfa 4C, another two-seater sports car.

The Fiat-Mazda agreement should be finalized later this year, and production could begin in 2015.

"This agreement clearly demonstrates our commitment to Alfa Romeo and the determination to grow it into a truly global brand," Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said in a statement announcing the Mazda partnership.

It makes sense Alfa is coming back to the U.S. with two roadsters: America is the largest market for two-seater cars in the world.

Alfa, owned by Fiat, left the U.S. in 1995. Its reputation for making stylish but highly unreliable cars failed to win over American consumers, who had become accustomed to buying dependable cars. Alfa had a hard time navigating the recession in the early 1990s, with sales dwindling from more than 8,200 at its peak in 1986 to fewer than 500 in 1994.

But there was always someone willing to buy an Alfa Romeo, given how easy it was to look at the driver's seat and imagine yourself donning sunglasses and driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. And so, since Fiat took ownership of Chrysler in 2009, speculation has run rampant over if and when Alfa would come back to U.S. shores.

Mazda, on the other hand, has good enough quality to keep its customer base. But it has been struggling for the past couple of years since its partnership with Ford petered out in 2010. The agreement helps Mazda stay afloat, and gives Fiat access to global markets like Asia.

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