Update: The long-awaited return of Alfa Romeo to U.S. sales is finally beginning to make some tangible progress - today Fiat and BMW announced a possible partnership with BMW's Mini dealerships that will allow the German company to sell Alfas in its stores. The news means that Alfa could have at least a foothold from which to launch its return.

The two carmakers are also considering the possibility of co-operation in the areas of components and architectures for their Mini and Alfa Romeo vehicles.

Though the joint announcement was careful to preserve the tentative nature of the agreement - it's more of an agreement to consider cooperation that would include parts and platform sharing in addition to sales and distribution - the fact that the companies made the details public goes a long way to indicate the likelihood that a long-term deal will materialize. So far only a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed by both companies.

As for Alfa Romeo’s relaunch in North America, nothing will be set in stone until the carmaker actually makes its comeback to American shores in 2010, but with just over 18 months to get the groundwork laid, the announcement today looks like a promising start. The company also recently confirmed it was in talks with Chrysler, though the specifics of that deal are yet unknown.

Alfa's first offering in the U.S. is expected to the big brother to the Mi.To, which will replace the upper end of the 147 range. The Mi.To is expected to come to America as well, several months after the more premium-targeted hatch makes the scene.

Original: BMW has been linked with a number of carmakers in recent months over possible partnerships for the development of its future generation of small cars, and latest reports indicate it has finally found a new partner in the form of Fiat. According to supplier sources, BMW will team up with Fiat to develop a new small car platform for its third-generation Mini range and the next Fiat Grande Punto. The same design could also be used for a new Alfa Romeo model and possibly even the next BMW 1-series.

In addition to developing a new platform, both carmakers are also reportedly planning a new family of petrol and diesel engines. BMW has already co-developed a new family of engines, dubbed the EP Family, together with PSA Peugeot-Citroen Group, which recently debuted in the facelifted Citroen C4.

Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has also confirmed that an announcement about a cooperation agreement with another carmaker will be made tomorrow.

"Most likely it will be in the car business," Marchionne told reporters from Automotive News Europe at the press launch of the 500 Abarth today. Fiat already has ties with PSA Peugeot-Citroen Group as well as Suzuki and Tata.

The latest news leaves doubt as to whether talks between BMW and Daimler over a deal to co-develop small car platforms and engines will lead to fruition. Mercedes-Benz has announced that it will develop its own platforms for its replacement for the A and B-Class, and the latest reports reaffirm that the chance of a tie-up between the two rivals is now unlikely.