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Author Topic:   Mercury AND Yamaha: 4-Stroke Deals
jimh posted 06-22-2002 10:17 AM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
There has been plenty of buzz heard about the recent agreement between outboard competitors MERCURY and YAMAHA in which 4000 units of Yamaha's newest 4-stroke V-6 outboard (225-HP) will be sold to Mercury, who will paint them black and otherwise modify them for sale as Mercury engines.

Fans of Yamaha engines react to this by puffing their chests and gloating about how their favorite engine maker has the goods and the other guy doesn't.

But throwing out all the cheerleading for either brand of engine, this announced deal warrants deeper investigation. What is going on here?

On the surface it appears that Mercury does not have a product ready for an important slot in their line. They don't have a 4-stroke engine in the 200-HP range. Yamaha does, their new 2002 V-6 engine. This leaves Mercury very uncompetitive in this segment, which while smaller in volume than other horsepower ranges is very lucrative. These engines sell for $17,000 retail.

According to a number of articles and sources, Yamaha has agreed to sell Mercury 4,000 of these engines for year 2003 production, giving Mercury a much needed entry in this market segment. While we don't know what Yamaha's production capacity is on this engine, 4,000 units does seem like a sizeable chunk of plant output. That's 20 engines a day for 200 days, and I don't think they are exactly stamping these things out.

To appreciate the size of this deal, consider that the retail price of these 4,000 engine will be at least $15,000. That means this deal transfers $60,000,000 in sales from the Yamaha column to the Mercury column. That is quite a bit of market.

It has even been suggested that this agreement on 4-stroke engines was made over the objections of Yamaha-USA, who felt the demand would be great for the 225-HP 4-stroke, possibly exceeding supply. They see the loss of 4,000 production units as the loss of 4,000 Yamaha engine retail sales to customers.

In addition, Mercury and Yamaha are competitors in the US market, so why make such a cozy deal to help a competitor.

The answer to this must be a second half of the bargain, as of yet unannounced. Here is my speculation on what that might be.

Mercury has widely reported and even shown a prototype of a new 4-stroke engine they have in development. This engine has been touted as having many new features. It is expected to be capable of higher horsepower, perhaps as much as 300-HP, to have new mounting technology, and to have something revolutionary "in the middle." (The phrase was used by Brunswick CEO George Buckley.)

It seems reasonable to expect that when this 300-HP 4-stroke comes to market, Brusnwick must have agreed to sell some of them to Yamaha. That's the quid pro quo that makes the deal on the 4,000-units of 225-HP engines more understandable.

Another explanation may be that the deal also gives Yamaha whatever that new thing "in the middle" of the engine turns out to be. What is that likely to be?

If you look for the "middle" of an outboard, I would guess it would be somewhere between the powerhead and the propeller. Right now, on most outboard all that's there is a straight drive shaft down the leg into a lower unit. But if you look at the photographs of the Mercury prototype engine, you'll see the engine's leg has quite a bustle in it. There is definitely something in there besides just a straight drive shaft. Could it be a transmission?

Putting an electronically controlled transmission between the powerhead and the lower unit would really be a break through in outboard engineering. It could be the answer to the old problem of producing torque at lower crankcase speeds. It could be a way to create better performance from 4-stroke engines, to give them better "hole shot" and accelleration.

An engine with an electronic transmission that shifted under command from an engine control module would be something worthy of a five year development project. It could be a real innovation in ouboard design.

Perhaps this is the "other shoe" waiting to drop in the Mercury - Yamaha engine deal.

Steve Leone posted 06-22-2002 04:42 PM ET (US)     Profile for Steve Leone  Send Email to Steve Leone     
outboards mimicking cars: "i wan`t the four speed on the floor with the clutch in the middle please" you can burn rubber on a boat, neat. steve out
bsmotril posted 06-22-2002 08:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for bsmotril  Send Email to bsmotril     
A transmission to make up for the sometimes missing bottom end torque on a 4 stroke would be nice. Add wet, or cone clutches for smooth shifting and long life. But even better, how about a heat exchanger and closed loop colling system. That would contribute to engine longevity.
Tom W Clark posted 06-22-2002 10:51 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     
jimh has come up with some interesting speculation but that if there's anything truly "revolutionary" about this new motor, I doubt it's a transmission in the conventional sense.

Most prop driven craft including boats and airplanes have variable pitch propellers to vary the way power is transferred from the engine instead of a gear changing transmission. This is almost universal on high performance prop driven aircraft.

A variable pitch prop on an outboard would be something but it seems likely to be the case here. I would imagine the gearcase would be significantly redesigned, not the mid section.

An enlarged mid section makes me think more about the powerhead of the motor and an unusual cylinder arrangement.

As to the talk of a 300 hp motor, I recall Mercury going through all this some time ago, and failing to bring it to market. The they couldn’t keep there new motor running. Maybe they’ll have more luck this time.

In the mean time I am reminded of all the hoopla over “Ginger”, Dean Kamen’s “revolutionary” new top secret device that turns out to be a really cool scooter that costs a lot. I hope Mercury does better.

Clark Roberts posted 06-23-2002 07:14 AM ET (US)     Profile for Clark Roberts  Send Email to Clark Roberts     
Mercury had a variable pitch prop (hyd controlled) a few years back and it never caught on. I had a variable pitch prop back in the late '50's on a 25hp Johnson. It was aluminum and each of the 3 blades were adjustable via a wrench. Turns out that there was only one setting (pitch) that worked well all around. A lower setting worked well for skiing.... Clark... SCN
Lil Whaler Lover posted 06-23-2002 08:22 AM ET (US)     Profile for Lil Whaler Lover  Send Email to Lil Whaler Lover     
An outfit from New Hampshire (I think) called Land and Sea has built variable pitch props for many years. This function by shifting from a low pitch to a higher pitch as the RPM's increase. I remember talking to a person who used one on a 20' +/- bass boat and reported cutting his planing time in half and increasing top end by 3-5 miles per hour. Trailer Bots magazine has tested them in the past. Dave
jimh posted 06-23-2002 09:34 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Mercury also had a variable pitch propeller in their product line a few years ago, but they seem to have dropped it.

The idea of a continuously variable transmission is interesting, but given the fact that even automotive engineering has not developed such a thing, I would be really surprised to discover that Mercury had one.

Even just a two-speed transmission would appear to be useful on an outboard. It could work like the Drive-OverDrive selector on your car. When you are heavily loaded, you use Drive. When you are not so heavily loaded and cruising at high speed, you use OverDrive. Same thing on the boat.

My feeling is Yamaha did not pass up $60-million in sales just to get an aerodynamic shape on a cowling--there has to be something in there.

Ed Z posted 06-23-2002 11:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for Ed Z  Send Email to Ed Z     
Possibly Merc has a hydro-static drive system in mind for the 300 hp... Or possibly a torque convertor in the middle to make it possible to troll as well as give it a better hole-shot... Just guessing here...
JDH posted 06-23-2002 11:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for JDH  Send Email to JDH     
jimh- you wrote:

The idea of a continuously variable transmission is interesting, but given the fact that even automotive engineering has not developed such a thing


Subaru had a tranny called the CVT, and was for all practical purposes a true cvt. It appears to have been dropped, and was limited interms of how much HP it could handle.

Just a data point

Peter posted 06-23-2002 11:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for Peter  Send Email to Peter     
Just what the market needs -- an 800lb, $ 20,000 4 stroke 200 hp outboard. ;)
jimh posted 06-23-2002 03:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Remember, the $20,000 outboard will emit less pollutants.

So when the 2,000 or so boater who will have these engines go boating for a hundred or so hours each year, they emit maybe 5 or 10-percent less emissions per hour than the test of us.

This makes me think of a new equilibrium in the outboard motor -vs- pollution equation:

Low pollution engines become so expensive that they can only be purchased by people with incomes so high that they have to be in some form of business that causes pollution.

Or a collarary:

As the price of low-pollution outboards rises, the amount of work required to earn the money to buy them increases, causing increased pollution.

dgp posted 06-23-2002 06:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for dgp  Send Email to dgp     
The Honda Civic has had an optional CVT for several years now.
Dick posted 06-23-2002 09:01 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     
Since we are speculating here I may as well add my thoughts.
My Merc Rep has told me that they have a 4 stk V-6 in testing at Lake X. Long ago I learned not to believe any factory reps so who knows what they are testing.

I do think that when Merc does come out with a high HP 4 stk of their own it will set new standards for all of the others.
In spite of my reps denial I wouldn't be surprised to see it based on the new GM I-6, but then again they may have developed their own light weight V-6. A transmission of any kind, no way.

I would expect that our questions will be answered next year.

Bigshot posted 06-24-2002 09:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for Bigshot  Send Email to Bigshot     
The kick of the CVT is that it runs the engine at peak torque all the time. If there was a way to run an outboard or I/O at peak torque via a CVT there would be no reason to run high rpm's therefore less pollution and better performance. As RPM's increase torque decreases after peak torque is obtained. If there was a way to say always keep a boat at peak torque(say 3000 rpm's) engine longevity and performance would skyrocket.
GAwhale posted 06-24-2002 10:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for GAwhale  Send Email to GAwhale     
I think there would be a huge market for the first one to build a reliable 300 HP.

Bass fishing has come to be a big money sport and people shell out big money for their equipment. (plus bragging rights)

I have yet to see a Bass Boat with twins. Is there a reason for this other than you don't have to go off shore?

jbtaz posted 06-24-2002 01:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for jbtaz  Send Email to jbtaz     
Mercury and Yamaha have collaborated on engines for along time especially overseas where Yamaha built alot of Merc's Mariner engines..(In fact, Mercury owned or had a percentage of ownership in the Yamaha outboard factory in the 80's until they were ordered to unload their shares due to competitive reasons.) I'm sure there's definalty some technology that will benifit Yamaha out of this too...Maybe it's the new foundry that Mercury owns and produces castings from. BTW, all Merc outboards under 6hp are repainted Tohatu's...(It was cost prohibitive for them to R&D their own small engines)..
SuburbanBoy posted 06-24-2002 02:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for SuburbanBoy  Send Email to SuburbanBoy     
What about a Yamaha buyout of Mercury Marine? It would be an interesting development.

Honda has a CVT in at least two models.

Perhaps the "In the middle" refers to a catalyst for emissions.

Self contained cooling would add about 15 pounds (radiator and some misc. components).


lhg posted 06-24-2002 02:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
First of all, regarding 300HP, Mercury already makes one, and has for the last two years. It's a conventional 3 liter 2 stroke EFI. They're all over the place on go-fasts
in S Florida. I recently saw a picture of CPD 27 Challenger with a pair of them.

I believe they are working on two new blocks.
One to handle the 135-225 market, and one to handle the 250-300 market. I think the latter could be on this Chevy in-line 6 block, and the 135-225's on a 4 in-line block. The word is these will weigh about the same as the conventional 2 strokes, making them the lightest 4-strokes on the market. Obviously, they will all be EFI's.

It's Buckley's comment about being a whole generation ahead of the competitors that has everyone intrigued. But whatever it is, even the Dealers and marketing reps don't know much. My Mercury dealer knows nothing, or he's not talking. It's one well kept secret. But it must be something that Yamaha wants to share in.

The boating journals said that when Mercury made the stop-gap deal for the 4000 225's, they by passed Yamaha of America and went straight to Japan. The people over here were furious about it, obviously out of the loop.

So the deal was strictly top level security, which makes me think Yamaha will getting some part of this secret for them to sell also in exchange.

This long time Mercury-Yamaha relationship is very clever. On the surface they look like outright competitors, but underneath it all, seem quite cosy. It certainly seems to be working, since now together they've got close to 80% of the marketplace. They're probably both worried about Bombardier in the longer term future, both with the Suzuki 4-strokes now, and eventually their own designs, and want to lock them out as best they can.

Bombardier, incidentally, is so frustrated with the Ficht bad name that they've decided to get rid of that branding on the 2003 engines. But I think it's probably wishful thinking, since the underlying DFI is still FICHT design, I think it will be hard to shed.

lhg posted 06-24-2002 02:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
I think Sub's guess on a catalytic converter "in the middle" could be good. There has been talk of this in outboards for some time, to meet the increasing strict emmissions. These are definitely coming for inboards, and the go-fast industry is panicked about it, since the open exhaust noise will be gone.

The reason I think the 135-225 rnage engine is going to be a 4, is that the Chevy 6 is too powerful and can't be cranked down that low. So maybe they're just lopping off two cylinders?

jimh posted 06-24-2002 05:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Audi now has a constant velocity transmission option. See,4824,categoryId-3_glossaryId-139_,00.html#139
DaveH posted 06-24-2002 05:18 PM ET (US)     Profile for DaveH  Send Email to DaveH     
You are all on the right track according to some presentation material from the Brunswick Evolution of Technology speeches recently.

There is talk of "variable gearing" which probably means a CVT or constant velocity transmission. The limitations in the past to this technology was the lack of torque capability of the steel band and metal fatigue. The automotive world has several products out now which handle much higher torque than ever before but we'll see how durable they are over time.

There is also info on catalyst materials for outboards sited in the material. This would allow higher output of existing engine technology (same block, more Hp) with the increase in emissions being handled by a replaceable (read: after market sales $)catalyst cartridge

The most information I found is in "smart" technology. I take this to mean dumb boater + electronics = "smart boater". Brunswick is investing heavily on drive-by-wire systems integrated with GPS, depth finders, and chart plotters. I'm talking throttle control, steering, power tilt, trim, tabs, and integral jackplates too--all by wire and controlled for optimization by computer. This means they can also interface all of these sources with computer controlled docking thrusters, complete engine management systems and whatever else the computer geeks can think of. Push button boating at its finest (tongue firmly planted in cheek, guys). You can forget working on your outboards (and i/o's) without a laptop soon, guess I'll buy a rowboat before they screw that up too.

lhg posted 06-25-2002 11:52 AM ET (US)     Profile for lhg    
I just saw a trade article that I recieved this morning that says BW will be getting the first of the Yamaha built 225 Mercs, for factory rigging.

There is also some indication that Buckley says Yamaha is talking to Mercury about buying some Mercury products, and that "discussions" are ongoing. This is more evidence that Yamaha gave Mercury the 225 in exchange for something that Mercury has that it wants.

Finally, there is confirmation that Yamaha is bringing out new 75 & 90HP rated 4-strokes, the same as Mercury's power line up on the same block, probably instead of the current 80's and 100's. They don't say EFI, but I'll bet they are, since my Mercury dealer said the Mercs would be EFI for 2003 models. These mid-range 4-strokes are a joint venture between the two Companies.

flwhaler posted 06-27-2002 10:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for flwhaler  Send Email to flwhaler     
I like to think that the new motor merc is going to out is a wenkle or rotory engine. It seems that set up would be perfect. High RPMs light weight and simple, yet reliable operation. 17,000 RPM here we come!!


JBCornwell posted 06-27-2002 10:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for JBCornwell  Send Email to JBCornwell     

While I don't particularly want to raise anyone's hackles, I resent Brunswick's predatory marketing sufficiently that I won't buy a Merc if there is a viable alternative. Period.

For that same reason, obviously, I wont buy a new Whaler, either. Well, only partly. I prefer the classics.

I suppose this goes in the other thread that is running about "take it or leave it" marketing. But this one seems appropriate, too.

I am still the customer. If they wont do it my way, then they wont do it at all.

Red sky at night. . .
JB :)

John W posted 06-28-2002 02:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for John W  Send Email to John W     
JB, I know where you're coming from, but unfortunately this seems to be the wave of the future. If you want a Hewes, Maverick, or Pathfinder flats or bayboat, you'd better like Yamaha because that's your only choice. Same way with Edgewater, Contender, etc...most seem to be owned or in alliance with one motor co or the other. I guess it's another reason to own a classic!
rsgwynn1 posted 06-28-2002 03:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for rsgwynn1  Send Email to rsgwynn1     
There is a brand-new 225 four-stroke Yammie currently on ebay. Wish I had enough liquid cash to bid on it.

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