Yamaha is a maker of motorcycles, and a good one at that. It’s second only to Honda in size in the two-wheeled world. But the company is now looking to enter into the European car market with an urban runabout, and they’ve again tapped Gordon Murray to design it.
You may recall a similar story from two years ago, when Yamaha unveiled a new car called the Motiv (pictured) at the 2013 Tokyo motor show. The car had been designed using Gordon Murray‘s iStream technology; a radical lightweight manufacturing process derived from Formula One car construction that bypasses the need for heavy tooling and stamping. From what we gather this isn’t the Motiv but an all new two-seat vehicle, but it could still be manufactured in the same way.
The Financial Times is reporting that Yamaha Motor has selected Gordon Murray Design to create a new vehicle that will go up against more established contenders in the microcar segment — namely vehicles such as the Smart ForTwo and the Renault Twizy. In an interview with the paper, chief executive Hiroyuki Yanagi cites stricter environmental regulations in major European cities regarding carbon dioxide emissions as a driver in the company’s decision to enter the four-wheeled city car space.
While that may well be true, demand for fuel-efficient small cars isn’t increasing dramatically. IHS Automotive projects the entire minicar segment in Europe will only grow by 140,000 units in the next five years, which explains why Toyota axed its Smart competitor, the iQ, following slow sales and Renault’s Twizy isn’t flying off the shelves either. Combined with the fact that there is very little profit to be made in the small car market, manufacturers aren’t falling over themselves to provide vehicles that fill the niche.
But Yamaha is no stranger to collaborative efforts at building cars. The company famously partnered with Toyota to create the 2000GT and it manufactured the V6 engine that was found in the first and second generations of the Ford Taurus SHO. While its first two attempts at building a car never found traction — besides the stillborn Motiv, the single seat OX99-11 prototype (pictured above) designed by Yamaha subsidiary Ypsilon Technology and IAD in 1992 never came to fruition either — Yamaha is remaining steadfast in its ambitions.
Looking at the estimated growth figures in the microcar segment it seems Yamaha would do well to concentrate on its core motorcycle and marine business rather than try again, but it appears the company is intent on having another go at creating transportation of the four-wheeled variety. Perhaps they know something the analysts don’t; perhaps they have enough foresight to believe so resolutely in Gordon Murray’s iStream system; or perhaps they simply don’t like to fail. Either way, we applaud them for it. This could get interesting.