Looking back to the roots of the Global brand people love
50 + 9,000,000 = Yamaha
2010 marks the 50th Anniversary of the birth of the very first Yamaha outboard. Since that momentous day in July 1960, Yamaha Motor has established itself firmly as the world’s premier brand, a fact fully reflected by the proud announcement in March 2010 that the company had just produced its nine millionth outboard.
Of course, the story of half a century of Yamaha outboard motor development has not been without its difficulties and obstacles, not least being the technical challenge of producing engines that would not only survive, but conquer the harsh and unique demands of the marine environment. Despite the many challenges, Yamaha engineers persevered in their determination to deliver a range of outboards that would bring reliability, pleasure and true satisfaction to owners around the world and their success is now legendary.
Which is why, 50 years on from that very first outboard, Yamaha offers over a thousand different model variants, ensuring that from the Poles to the Equator, the perfect outboard is available for every type of boat - and every type of boating. In short, they created what has now become The World’s Favourite Outboard.
Yamaha - A Global Business
Yamaha outboards are produced at five factories in Japan, France and Brazil and at each one there is the same ongoing commitment to the development and refinement of production processes.
Every aspect of manufacture is painstakingly controlled - from materials and machining, heat treatment, painting and assembly, all the way through to quality assessment and testing. It’s how we build the Yamaha reputation for matchless performance and absolute reliability into each and every product.
At the newest factory, Fukuroi South in Japan, new production technologies have been introduced to improve quality still further. These include the increased use of super-accurate robotic machines on the paint line and a more efficient ‘modular’ production system.
Other innovations such as the increased use of natural light for working as well as the installation of a water recycling system have enabled the plant to achieve more environment-friendly levels of manufacturing.
Developing an outboard from scratch
The development project for the first Yamaha outboard motor began back in 1958 with a staff of just two engineers. At the time, everything was new to them as they started from scratch to build the company’s first marine engine. Soon however, the staff grew in number and preparations were made to move into full production. Initially there were no formal standards for testing and the development process involved simply running the prototypes 24 hours a day and investigating how to improve the parts as and when they eventually broke down!
After overcoming the many obstacles and hardships that arose, the result was the birth of Yamaha’s very first commercially viable outboard motor, the little yellow P-7 model launched in Japan in 1960.
In reality however, it was still far from perfect. For example, as one of the engineers from that time recalls, it was particularly loud and had rather a high level of vibration. This led to jokes from fishermen such as “You can tell it’s an outboard built by a musical instrument maker – it puts out quite a sound!”.
Even though that first Yamaha outboard was the product of a start-from-scratch development project, full of trial and error, the fruits of that initial challenge started Yamaha Motor on its path to becoming the leading global outboard brand it is today. Based on that experience, Yamaha Motor would move on to undertake the next challenge - building a more compact, lighter and quieter outboard.
Yamaha Motor’s second production outboard model, known as the P-3, was the first outboard manufactured in Japan to use die-cast parts, a materials choice that reduced weight and contributed to its more compact design. Unlike the first P-7 development project, most of which was conducted by trial and error, the project to develop the P-3 included concerted efforts to directly gather and react to opinions from the marketplace and from end users.
So began a tradition of Yamaha engineers making frequent visits to the marketplace to listen to what their dealers and customers had to say.
Even from those earliest days, whenever there was a query or warranty claim from a dealership, Yamaha engineers would go there immediately and listen to the reports of the dealers, as well as the complaints and requests of the customers. That tradition continues today in Yamaha Motor’s market-oriented approach to product development and involves gathering valuable information in each market from the people who actually use and service the products.
The first test marketing was done in a market in Chiba prefecture in Japan, where lobster fishing was popular at the time, and within a few years the entire harbour was filled with the distinctive yellow cowls of the P-3. So whereas the P-7 was born of a gritty but diligent project that overcame many obstacles, the P-3 was the product of an equally diligent process, but one that also involved directly facing the realities of how the product was being used and responding in practical terms and with sincerity, to the voice of the market. Both of these development processes remain firmly implanted in Yamaha Motor’s corporate culture today.
Milestone 9 millionth outboard produced in 50th Year
In March 2010, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. proudly announced that its total production of outboards motors had reached the nine million mark, coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of the launch of the very first Yamaha outboard. The story began in 1960 with the introduction of that first outboard model, the revolutionary 7hp Yamaha P-7. It took 36 years before total production reached the 5m units milestone, which was achieved in March of 1996 and 10 years later in October 2006, the total reached 8m units. However, production of the next million Yamaha outboards, pushing the total to the impressive figure of 9m, has been achieved in just over 3 years.
Moving forward, Yamaha Motor continues to develop and exploit new technologies that not only improve product performance but which satisfy the increasingly important environmental manufacturing standards demanded of manufacturers in every sphere of industry today. For example, we have already developed technologies that have improved the fuel efficiency of our engines by around 30% since as recently as 2007.
Of course, the latest emissions standards set by the USA and other key markets have also been met and surpassed, so that every part of the world is now provided with Yamaha products designed to satisfy the specific needs of the regional environment.
So fifty years on, and nine million outboards later, it’s clear why boat owners everywhere rely on Yamaha - it’s still The World’s Favourite Outboard.