Mazda welcomes faster MX-5 twin from Fiat

Fiat 124 Spider

IT WOULD be an understatement to say that Mazda Australia is not concerned it will lose MX-5 sales to the twin-under-the-skin Fiat 124 Spider, which should launch here in about 12 months.

Selling the Spider in Australia would be an uphill battle, Mazda marketing director Alastair Doak tipped, despite the fact that it’s going to be a very similar sports car to the Mazda MX-5, built on the same line in Hiroshima.

“You’d have to think their pricing will be a lot different, i.e. more, depending on how they’re going to pay for it - in euros or yen, we don’t know,” Doak said.

“Plus if you look at Fiat Chrysler as a whole, their dealer network is nowhere, their customer service, across all their brands, is less than ideal, and Fiat, as a brand? Fiat, in Australia? Really?

“If it was someone else with a big dealer network and some actual brand awareness, you might worry, but it’s not.”

Part of the deal between Mazda and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles - which will unveil the new, and probably more powerful, Fiat Spider at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November - was that the Japanese car maker gets a 12-month run at the market before the Italian version arrives. Mazda is supplying most of the tech and engineering knowhow.

Doak agreed that it’s not dissimilar from the way the Toyota 86 relates to the Subaru BRZ, with the smaller company having to make do with scraps, and smaller sales.

“It’s our car and it’s our engineering and sure they’ll drop an engine and a gearbox in it, and maybe out some new panels on it, but people know it’s a Mazda underneath,” Doak said.

Mazda is similarly relaxed about the idea of Holden taking it on in Australia’s largest segment, with the new Astra lining up against the Mazda 3.

“Good luck to them,” Doak says. “They need to make big structural changes, to go from a company with a fleet base to an actual retail one, and it’s a big shift.

“And they turned the switch off on Astra. It’s not as simple as saying ‘Hey, Astra’s back’ and sales flooding in the door.”

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