LUCA CIFERRI

An Alfa built in Japan is not such a bad thing

Luca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe's chief correspondentLuca Ciferri is Automotive News Europe's chief correspondent
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Fiat has said Alfa Romeo's new roadster based on the next Mazda MX-5/Miata will be produced by the Japanese automaker.

Last weekend, at a Concorso d'Eleganza classic cars event at Lake Como, Italy, the question on the lips of everyone I met was: "Wouldn't Marchionne be crazy to build an Alfa Spider in Japan?"

My answer to all those scandalized by the idea of the heir to the legendary Alfa Duetto Spider sharing so much with the MX-5 was simple: who designs a car or where it is built are not guarantees of success.

The right underpinnings count much more than the production location. As the former owner of a first-generation MX-5 shipped over from Hiroshima in Japan to Italy almost 25 years ago, I have good memories of those great underpinnings.

As far as design is concerned, the last Alfa Spider was styled by the famous designer Giorgio Giugiaro and built by Pininfarina. In late 2010, the car was prematurely killed partly by poor quality, but mostly by totally inadequate underpinnings. During its five years of production, only 12,488 were sold.

Another example is the stunningly beautiful Alfa 6C 1750, which took all three top prizes in the classic-car competitions held at last weekend's Concorso d'Eleganza held at Lake Como's Villa d'Este. This 1933-built car was manufactured in France by an Italian coachbuilder, Giuseppe Figoni, who learned his trade from French coachbuilders.

This goes to prove, if your great design is dressing a good chassis, where the car is built is a minor detail.

The Alfa 6C 1750 was a multiple prize winner last weekend.

Last weekend, Alfa also won top honors in the concept-car section for its 4C coupe. Due in mid-2013 as a production model, the brand's halo car is sure to keep purists happy as it is being built by Maserati, in Modena, Italy.

You can reach Luca Ciferri at lciferri@crain.com.

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