Mazda, Fiat to work together on small roadster image

Mazda Motor Corp. and Fiat SpA agreed to jointly develop a sports car , although the automakers will come up with different, distinctly styled models.

Both vehicles will be built at Mazda’s Hiroshima plant, with production of the Alfa Romeo version due to start in 2015.

A final agreement is expected to be signed in the second half of this year, they said in a statement.
Mazda has “good products and technology, but didn’t fully monetize the actual value of its technology,” Kohei Takahashi, a Tokyo-based analyst with JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) (JPM), said by phone before the announcement.

“For Mazda it’s better to have an alliance with someone.”

Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne said working with Mazda was part of an effort to grow into “a truly global brand,” and deliver “an exciting and stylish roadster in the Alfa Romeo tradition.”

Speculation has been rife that Mazda might need a partner, perhaps one of the emerging Chinese makers, if it hopes to ride out the intense competition in the industry.

Fiat and Mazda will also assess more opportunities to cooperate in Europe. “This agreement proves our committment vis a vis Alfa Romeo, and our determination in ensuring it becomes a global car make,” said Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, commenting on the newly announced agreement with Mazda. . .

Mazda has lost money for four straight years. Because it builds most of its cars in Japan and exports most of them, it has been hurt by the strong yen.