Japan’s motorcycle industry in the latter half of the 1950s moved from imitating European technology and making improvements to developing and competing with original products while emphasizing marketing.
YMC’s research and development system originally depended on Nippon Gakki’s Hamamatsu Research Laboratory, but this was transferred to YMC in September 1956. Three years later, on September 1, 1959, Yamaha Technical Laboratories was established. Nippon Gakki’s Metals Research Laboratory and Tokyo Laboratory, and YMC’s Hamamatsu Research Laboratory were consolidated at one site, which resulted in the establishment and enhancement of a Yamaha companywide research infrastructure.
Yamaha Technical Laboratories had several research departments in areas including metallic and non-metallic materials, acoustics, electric materials, applied physics, and internal combustion engines. It also had a factory for prototypes. The organization was independent of both Nippon Gakki and YMC, and emphasized research on developing technology that could be commercialized within several years and on making technological innovations for products that were already on the market. Many members of the facility’s engineering staff had joined Yamaha mid-career and their expertise was quite varied. President Genichi Kawakami’s policy was to invest one-third of profits in research and development.
The facility included a research department that handled research and development on full-fledged, high-performance sports cars. Yamaha had already deliberated in 1958 on developing compact cars at the Hamamatsu Research Laboratory, but the venture was cut short after the company judged that its profitability as a business was questionable. After that, the research department in the new facility took over research on automobiles, but the department was broken up in February 1962 due to deterioration in the business environment.
In November of the same year, Yamaha Technical Laboratories was also dissolved. However, the research that had pursued the dream of building a car bore fruit at a later date when the company developed a sports car in partnership with Toyota.
Moreover, Yamaha Technical Laboratories played a major role in cultivating the seeds of innovation in motorcycles, powerboats, sailboats, and outboard motors, seeds that later developed into the businesses that now underpin YMC.
The Yamaha Technical School was established in March 1961. Its objective was to teach basic knowledge and technology to employees of Nippon Gakki and YMC over the course of two years in order to foster outstanding human resources. Responding to the requirements of the times, the Yamaha Technical Training Institute and Yamaha Technical High School were established in 1963 and 1973, respectively, in order to train mid-level technical personnel at production facilities.
Although an adequate operating base had yet to be established when the company was first founded, efforts were devoted to developing a research system for quality assurance and technological innovation. This system would later become the driving force for business diversification at YMC.