Published: Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Japanese company Yamaha Motor recorded sales of 300,000 units in 2015 for a 40% share of the global market. The company went a long way towards the switch from two-stroke to four-stroke outboard engines.

Yamaha Motor Records 40 Global Sales Of Outboard Engines 3

(Photos: Yamaha Motor - F9.9A)

In the more than 50 years since the 1960 release of the P-7, the first outboard motor, Yamaha Motor has been devoted to continuous marine product development and boasts a lineup of two-stroke, four-stroke and electric outboard models that ranges from 2hp to 350hp offerings.

With its earliest models like the P-7 and P-3, Yamaha began by building small- and mid-class models that could be used for either pleasure or fishery. The company expanded into the field of large horsepower high-performance models for the pleasure-use market. By the first half of the 1980s, Yamaha had developed a complete lineup of two-stroke outboards ranging up to 220hp models.

However, the marine industry was facing a major turning point at the time, as developed markets like the United States and Europe began introducing stricter emissions regulations. Most of the outboard motors at that time had two-stroke engines, due to their simple construction and higher output per unit of displacement. But as emissions standards became increasingly strict, Yamaha decided to switch to four-strokes, with R&D work having been in progress since early 1970s. In 1984, the first Yamaha four-stroke outboard was released – the High Thrust spec F9.9A. Despite its small in-line two-cylinder 232cc engine, it could still function as a backup engine for sailboats. This was quickly followed by the release of the F9.9B standard model.

Yamaha Motor Records 40 Global Sales Of Outboard Engines

(VMAX series)

With these two models, Yamaha showed its development aim of offering environment-friendly four-stroke models that could serve as trade-in replacements for two-strokes.

Another advancement came in 1998 with the release of the four-stroke F100A model powered by a 1,596cc DOHC 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder engine. In addition to its 100hp output, it achieved cleaner emissions as well as lower fuel consumption. After that, Yamaha continued to develop its line of small- and mid-class four-stroke outboards with engine formats ranging from single-cylinder models to four-cylinder units. 

Then, the Japanese company developed high-performance outboards for larger boats. It strove to cover the existing lineup of 2-stroke models with 4-stroke alternatives that offered high performance with over 150hp but also taking care of eco-friendliness. This was a big challenge for the world’s manufacturers, but Yamaha was the first to produce an answer with the F225A model (released in 2001) mounting a 3,352cc V6 engine pumping out 225 horsepower. The F225A adopted a new engine layout that reversed the usual positioning of the intake and exhaust systems (the exhaust system was located inside the V bank of the cylinders) that brought dramatic reductions in overall weight and greater compactness.

Featuring technologies such as electronically controlled fuel injection and a blow-by gas re-ignition system, this model’s cleaner emissions cleared U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards by large margins while also providing excellent fuel efficiency and quieter operation. This revolutionary engine subsequently won the Boating Week Innovation Award in the U.S.

This breakthrough led Yamaha to subdivide its offerings in the highly versatile 50 to 150hp range and bring out numerous new in-line four-cylinder models. Furthermore, in 2007 Yamaha introduced a powerful production outboard, the 5,330cc V8-powered F350A. With this, Yamaha’s transition from two-stroke to four-stroke models across the entire horsepower range was complete.

Yamaha Motor Records 40 Global Sales Of Outboard Engines 1

From 2008, Yamaha began developing its second generation of four-stroke outboard motors. In the face of stricter emissions regulations and increasingly competitive models from other manufacturers, the market called for more attractive features and greater efficiency in the small to mid-class range, and for premium models in the large, over-200hp class with lighter weight, more compactness and higher levels of performance. 

Among this new generation of models, Yamaha developed the VMAX series, designed specifically for bass boats and built around a 4,169cc V6 engine. With features like plasma-fused sleeveless cylinders made possible with thermal spraying technology, a lighter top cowling and a plastic resin bottom cowling, the VMAX boasted the lightest weight in its class. It also achieved greater combustion efficiency thanks to variable camshaft timing, Yamaha-exclusive electronic control technology and more, and it delivered exceptional top-speed performance and fuel efficiency. The VMAX series remains popular as a line of light, compact and high-performance models that surpass two-strokes in all aspects.

Following the VMAX series came Yamaha’s lineup of V6-powered “Offshore” models for larger boats in 225, 250 and 300hp variations. Furthermore, Yamaha began Monozukuri to offer customers high value-added power packages complete with peripheral equipment, by developing new products such as the Helm Master integrated boat control system employing a joystick for easy operation, and better accommodating use of twin, triple or quad outboard configurations.

From 2012 to 2016, Yamaha has worked to stimulate the 115 to 200hp category by adding in-line four-cylinder engine models with further reductions in weight and size, and increased power output.

“Unlike cars or motorcycles, motorboats are often run for long hours at full throttle, so our first priority is building outboards with the durability and reliability to get Owners back to port without incident, despite that kind of heavy use,” says Yamaha Motor Marine Engine Product Planner. “That’s been the unwavering rule strictly adhered to in the development of every Yamaha outboard for more than 50 years. On top of that, we’ve consistently built in highly attractive product features and value. I believe that’s the reason Yamaha has the support of its customers, dealers and shops.