Sea — June 2002
By Capt. Bill Pike
|Rumor has it that Yamaha may hand off its four-stroke technology to Mercury Marine.|
Far be it from me to spread rumors. But hey! Far be it from me to keep my mouth shut about a seemingly solid, but unverified piece of news either, especially when it comes straight from a couple of reliable, independently interviewed, highly placed sources. I didn't spend 10 years of my young life working on newspapers for nothin'.
So what's the buzz? Well, in case you haven't heard, Yamaha Marine Power and Mercury Marine, the big names in high-horsepower, offshore outboards these days, are talking about doing a deal with far-reaching implications. More to the point, if the deal goes through, which my sources say is likely at this point, the realm of big outboard iron, once the purview of Midwesterners Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) and Mercury, will all but completely lose the red-white-and-blue cachet that's characterized it for years.
The deal sounds simple. Yamaha would convey to Mercury the four-stroke technology it's spent more than a decade developing for its recently introduced F225/F200 outboards, presumably for a sizeable chunk of change or some other commensurate consideration. Mercury, in turn, would package and sell F225/F200 powerheads in its own signature black envelope, perhaps adding engineering improvements.
Mercury's rumored position is the easiest to understand. Without having to spend millions on R&D, it stands to gain a marine-engine technology that's both highly marketable and mechanically elegant. I tested a pair of F225s on a Pro-Line 27 Express a couple of months back ("Bound For Glory," January 2002), an experience that intro'd me to a truly magnificent four-stroke outboard with a dry weight and cowling size in line with comparable two-strokers and impressive operating characteristics that are impressively clean, quiet, fuel-efficient, smooth, and muscular. Moreover, upon removing the cowling of the F225 to examine its electrics and mechanicals, I was constrained to conclude rather quickly that the motor's sophisticated yet essentially simple four stroke engineering looked pretty darn reliable long-term, maybe even bullet-proof.
Yamaha's position sounds more complex. While the marine division in America is said to be chary of sharing with competitor Mercury a powerhead that has immense sales potential, corporate heads in Japan look at Mercury's extensive dealership and distribution network stateside--and indeed around the world--and see big, fat dollar signs. Who cares what color the cowling is, their thinking goes, as long as the technology inside comes from Yamaha?
In response to a query about the rumored deal, Yamaha's stateside chief Phil Dyskow replied, "No comment." Mercury spokesperson Tom Mielke responded in kind. Whether or not Yamaha ultimately shares with a major-league competitor the trickest four-stroke technology it currently owns, the mere possibility of such a thing actually happening begs a critical question--what is the future of modern two-stroke outboard technology?
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.