Know Your Two-wheeler Brand: India Yamaha Motor
From the nostalgic RX100s to modern R15s and FZs, Yamaha’s racing genes have remained unperturbed by changing trends!
Yamaha was originally a musical instruments manufacturer, and the company started off its motorcycle business only in 1955. It gave the famous three tuning forks a whole new meaning where melody, harmony and rhythm were complemented by technology, production and sales. Here’s how the Japanese brand’s story started in India:
Three decades after Yamaha came into existence, the Japanese manufacturer entered our shores in 1985 through a joint venture with Escorts. This joint venture gave birth to the legendary RX100, for one. This motorcycle single-handedly etched the brand’s name into the hearts of countless enthusiasts. The 100cc two-stroke motor churning out 11.5PS might not be much but that engine in combination with the bike’s featherlight dry weight of just 95kg made it truly a force to reckon with. The RX100 dominated numerous motorsport events across the country.
It was then followed by different upgraded models like the RX G and then the RXZ 135 (remember the one with the 5-speed transmission?) but none managed to make as much of a hard-hitting impact as the RX100.
Another notable motorcycle that deserves a mention is the RD350. Even though it was not manufactured by Yamaha in India, the bike was so blisteringly fast for its time that it became a prized possession, or at least a dream motorcycle for almost every other two-wheeler enthusiast in India. The one made in India was rebadged as Rajdoot 350, and it was low on power and torque in favour of fuel efficiency. The move did make sense for India (read cost-conscious and mileage-centric market). However, the thrilling performance wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and the high asking price meant that by 1990, the famed RD disappeared from the production line.
A solo journey, facing a brave new world:
The ever-tightening emission norms and competition in the market sounded the death knell for Yamaha’s two-stroke motorcycles. So post that, Yamaha tried concentrating on commuters for the Indian market which was ever so hungry for fuel efficient bikes. Remember bikes like the Crux, the 125cc Fazer with that insect-like dual headlamp, and the Gladiator?
While these motorcycles were technologically sound, they never captured audiences’ attention as those bikes didn’t exactly stand for what people associated Yamaha with - sportiness and performance. In fact, the Japanese brand also tried its luck in the cruiser segment with the Yamaha Enticer, which also failed to make an impression.
Back in the game:
But there was a profound transformation of how the brand was perceived, in 2008. That year marked the arrival of the legendary YZF-R15. The magical combination of R1-inspired styling with fully-faired bodywork and an advanced liquid-cooled gem of an engine really put the Japanese bikemaker back on the centre stage. Also, the R15’s agile handling and competitive pricing made it one of the best enthusiast’s motorcycles at the time, by a huge margin!
Yamaha didn’t just stop with this, as in September (just three months after the R15’s launch), it launched the FZ16. While it didn’t have an engine that was as powerful as the R15, it still managed to decimate its competition. This was thanks to its air-cooled 153cc motor. It had the show to match the go too, as that fat 140-section rear tyre put it straight into the league of big bikes (or at least it gave that kind of an impression). Needless to say, the FZ sold like hot cakes, and sometime later the brand also launched a slightly sportier-looking variant, the FZ-S. Yamaha also dabbled in the scooter segment with the sporty-looking Ray range and the retro Fascino, which racked up consistently healthy numbers.
A performance-centric future:
After the subsequent iterations of the FZ and R15 range, Yamaha then expanded its performance portfolio with the YZF-R3. Its latest addition is the MT-15 and it’s evident that the brand’s racing genes have remained unfazed. Going forward, expect Yamaha to start off its launch spree with the facelifted R3, which might make its debut by late 2019 or at the 2020 Auto Expo. If we’re lucky we could even witness the arrival of the Tenere 700 under its CBU range as the ADV segment is getting a lot of traction in the Indian two-wheeler market. We wouldn't be surprised if Yamaha commences its CKD operations in India in a bid to make its big bikes even more affordable. Among it Japanese rivals, Yamaha is the only brand that doesn’t have CKD operations in India and this has hurt them with respect to sales and presence in the performance bike segment in our country.
The Japanese brand seems to be playing its performance card even in the scooter segment with the scheduled launch of the NMax 155. This scooter will most likely be the first one to sport a liquid-cooled engine in its segment. All these developments are surely bound to rev the heart of enthusiasts!