Buster SuperMagnum, one of Inha Works’ flagship models.
Yamaha in Europe
Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. in the Netherlands is the regional head office in Europe.
European motorcycle culture has a tradition spanning over a hundred years. It was in 1961 that Yamaha first took on the challenge of competing in Europe - the historical home of motorsport.
From then on, Yamaha’s motorcycle imports were handled by importers in each country throughout the continent.
To facilitate and build upon the increased demand, Yamaha in Japan decided to establish a subsidiary in the region. This marked the birth of Yamaha Motor Europe N.V. (YMENV) on 24th October 1968 in the Netherlands. The establishment of a unified headquarters at YMENV stimulated the import of a wide range of Yamaha products such as motorcycles, outboard engines, snowmobiles, and later, scooters, ATVs, Side-by-Side vehicles and many more. YMENV also helps to coordinate and support Yamaha’s racing activities in Europe.
At the same time, YMENV relayed back to Yamaha in Japan the full extent of European motorcycle culture, which had a significant impact on product planning and development.
A number of products that have won a place in history were brought about by this fusion of European culture and Japanese engineering. Also, participation in both on-road and off-track Grand Prix World Championships – the pinnacle of the sport and even now the perfect place to nurture the Yamaha Racing spirit we have inherited – is a prime example of our activities in our pursuit of creating Kando.
To date, some of our day-one importers in the region are still part of the Yamaha family either as a subsidiary of YMENV, such as Sonauto (FR, 1966), which became Yamaha Motor France S.A. with the late Jean Claude Olivier as President and which is now a branch of the YMENV or still as an independent importer, like Danfay Limited (IE, since 1965) and Hostettler AG (CH, since 1968).
Over the years Yamaha expanded in the European market and also extended that to manufacturing products in the region. Entering the (West) German market - which had an established motorcycle culture, a historical connection with Yamaha, and an important large-displacement motorcycle market - Yamaha formed sales company Mitsui Maschinen GmbH (MMG) as a joint venture with Mitsui & Co., Ltd.
However, to make communication with customers easier, as the company dealt in Yamaha-related products, the company’s name was changed to Yamaha Motor Deutschland GmbH in 1996. In 1981, Yamaha started a joint venture with Sociedad Española de Motocicletas S.A. (SEMSA) in Barcelona, Spain, which bought a factory where the first Spanish Yamaha model, the DT80MXS, rolled off the assembly line in September 1982. Unfortunately, immediately after its start SEMSA experienced the first economic and company crisis. When Spain joined the EEC in 1987, Yamaha took full ownership and so Yamaha Motor España S.A. was established.
As part of the Yamaha Motor Group industrial strategy, they began construction of a new factory. However, three years after the factory’s inauguration in 1988 it unfortunately burnt down in a fire. Thankfully, there were no human losses and thanks to a huge amount of dedication, a bigger and better factory was constructed in 11 months and reopened in 1992. This factory produced popular motorcycle and scooter models, like the Majesty 125 and the Neo’s 50cc scooters (among others), for about two decades.
The first motorcycle rolls off the assembly line at SEMSA, which was named later Yamaha Motor España S.A. (September 1982).
Start of Belgarda's DT125L/C assembly line (May 1986).
Following a request by the French Industrial Reconstruction Committee, Yamaha increased its business interest in France in September 1984 by buying MBK Industrie, a motorcycle manufacturer in the northeastern town of Saint Quentin (North of France), which had been created to help the restructuring of Motobécane, a failed motorcycle manufacturer. After a management crisis at Motobécane, MBK Industrie became a fully-owned Yamaha subsidiary.
To rebuild MBK in three months-time, Yamaha worked in 1987 with MBK managers to improve production systems, quality control, plant maintenance, and facilities, coaching MBK Industrie from the sidelines to improve the factory culture. This was no easy task considering the cultural differences between the two companies. Today, MBK Industrie manufactures European designed and developed models and is a subsidiary of YMENV.
In May 1984, Yamaha also made several bold advances into the Italian market. Yamaha formed a technical-assistance agreement with Motori Minarelli, a small engine manufacturer, to give local engine assembly for the DT125L/C. A year later, a similar agreement was made with Belgarda S.p.A, a motorcycle sales company, regarding the manufacturing of bikes. In May 1986, the first DT125L/C, with the engine of Motori Minarelli, rolled off the assembly line at Belgarda’s factory. Motori Minarelli became a member of the Yamaha Motor Group in 1989 when Yamaha took a 40% stake in the company, and in 2003 it became a wholly-owned YMENV subsidiary, still manufacturing and selling engines used in motorcycles, scooters and mopeds. In 2021, YMENV and Fantic Motor agreed on a deal that would make Motori Minarelli become a 100% subsidiary of Fantic Motor. In this way the existing YMENV and Fantic Motor synergy has been further strengthen, bringing the collaboration between the two companies to the next level in the fields of Motorcycle and e-mobility.
After the Italian government withdrew from the European monetary system in 1992, Yamaha raised its stake in Belgarda to 80%, making it a Yamaha Motor Group company as well, with Belgarda producing 600cc motorcycles. This company changed its name to Yamaha Motor Italia S.p.A. (YMIT) in 2004, which nowadays operates marketing, sales and service activities in the Italian market. Even though the Italian factory stopped its operations in 2008, the Yamaha hub in Italy has continued to grow over the years, opening the European R&D center (YMRE) in 2000, as well as establishing the European headquarters for Yamaha’s MotoGP Factory Racing operations in Gerno di Lesmo.
MBK Industrie assembly line in Saint Quentin, France (July 1987).
Yamaha YRM20, the most advanced components placement machine.
More recently, in 2017, Yamaha took a full interest in boat manufacturing company Inha Works Ltd. (IWL) in Finland to strengthen its leading position in the marine business. IWL manufactures, markets, and sells Buster, Yamarin and Yamarin Cross branded boats powered by Yamaha outboard engines.
Improving productivity has always played a central role in Yamaha, and in the 1970s it began developing industrial machinery to enhance the unique production technologies. As Yamaha in Japan refined its industrial-robots technology through ongoing Research & Development, it shared its industrial machinery products in the market worldwide.
At the beginning of the 1980s, Yamaha’s intelligent machinery incorporating Yamaha Robotics solutions for Surface Mount Technology and Factory Automation sections, became operational to best serve its customers globally. In 2016, Yamaha Motor Europe Intelligent Machinery (YMEIM) in Neuss, Germany became a branch of YMEVN. YMEIM continues to market Yamaha Robotics solutions and products throughout Europe.
To date, Yamaha is represented in over 40 European countries, employing more than 1,800 people, and although being founded more than 50 years ago, YMENV is as always looking to spread “Kando” among European customers, as well as, looking for opportunities to expand the Yamaha business.
Buster SuperMagnum, one of Inha Works’ flagship models.
Source dated imagery: “Times of YAMAHA”, 50th Anniversary Commemorative Book.
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