Yamaha will be making 2-seater cars to rival the iconic Smart in Europe by 2019. Reported in the Wall Street Journal by their correspondent Yoko Kubota with a Tokyo dateline, the information is as good as gold. And it doesn’t hurt that they had already teased a prototype two-seater commuter at the 43rd Tokyo Motor Show back in 2013, the Yamaha Motiv.
Although Toyota is one of their biggest shareholders, Yamaha says they’ll be going it alone, this foray into the carmakers sector that motorcycle rival Honda has already been dominating for decades.
In 2013, Yamaha had already used the Motiv as proof of concept for using some motorcycle manufacturing processes in the making of their production car. They had built the prototype with a steel-pipe frame the kind of which has always been used on motorcycles but not on cars.
While it keeps their new campaign closer to their strengths, something echoing both Sun Tzu and Miyamoto Musashi wisdom, the steel pipe frame also makes Yamaha’s two-seaters exceptionally rigid, exceedingly safe. A body built around a protective cage, not just on a flat frame chassis.
Making things even less risky for Yamaha is the current trend for small ultra-efficient engines, electric motors and for hybrid powertrains. The fact that carmaking trends now lean more towards electrics has even attracted the likes of Google and Apple to the industry—tech companies even farther removed from carmaking.
The Yamaha two seater will come with three powerplant options: 1000cc three-cylinder petrol engine, an electric drive, or a gas-electric hybrid. While compact electric motors can deliver over 100hp, the space limitation for batteries on either the full-electric or hybridized powerplants will keep things modest and match the typical 65hp of the 1000cc petrol engine option.
Still, this kind of power density delivers more torque than is typical on motorcycles. A good thing since Yamaha has been forced to look at cars because prospects have been shrinking in emerging markets where motorists are shifting from two-wheelers to micro-cars.
All this is speculation of course. And, if Yamaha chief executive Hiroyuki Yanagi will have his way, this is how it will remain for several more years. Motiv prototyping and the subsequent development of a production two-seater have been kept under tight wraps. So tight that the announcement even caught a lot of Yamaha employees by surprise.