Fiat has said Alfa Romeo's new roadster based on the next Mazda MX-5 Miata will be produced by the Japanese automaker.
At the recent Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este 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 brilliant designer Giorgio Giugiaro and built by Pininfarina. But in late 2010, the car was prematurely killed -- partly due to poor quality, but mostly because the underpinnings were totally inadequate. During 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 at this year's Concorso. This car was manufactured in 1933 in France by an Italian coachbuilder, Giuseppe Figoni, who learned his trade from French coachbuilders.
It only goes to prove: If your great design is dressing a good chassis, where the car is built is a minor detail.