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Yamaha soft-launching line of house-brand e-bikes at show

Published September 19, 2017

LAS VEGAS (BRAIN) — Yamaha, known for its motorcycles and powersports products, is raising the curtain — halfway, at least — on a new, four-model line of electric bikes that it will launch in the United States and Japan early next year. 

Yamaha is displaying only prototypes at its booth at the Interbike show this week, and won’t publicly disclose spec and other details until a formal product introduction later this year.

Company officials call the Interbike presence more of a “brand launch” than a product launch, and those looking for detailed information will be disappointed.

At Interbike, interested retailers can learn more specifics under a nondisclosure agreement so they can include Yamaha in their 2018 buying plans. The company said it is not publicizing details on the line so as not to step on the introduction of the line later this year in Japan.

Drew Engelmann, sales and marketing director, said Tuesday that the e-bike line consists of four models: The Urban Rush is a drop-bar road bike; the YDX-TORC is a hardtail mountain bike with 27.5-inch wheels; the CrossCore is a 700c fitness hybrid bike; and the CrossConnect is a 700c recreation and utility bike.

All will be Class 1 pedal-assist bikes, which means they will not have throttles and will be capable of assisted speeds of up to 20 mph.

The launch is unusual in many ways. While the U.S. e-bike market is largely driven by European brands and specifications, the new Yamaha e-bikes were born and raised in the USA.

“It was a U.S. project that studied the market and proposed to bring electric power assist bicycles to the United States,” said Rob Trester, manager of Yamaha’s New Business Development Division. He said Yamaha conducted extensive consumer research before deciding to launch the e-bikes.

Trester said Yamaha’s background in such products as motorcycles, ATVs, side-by-sides, snowmobiles and WaveRunner watercraft convinced it to focus on the U.S. for the e-bike launch.

“In some ways from a Yamaha global perspective, the U.S. market is sort of the place for outdoor recreation,” Trester said.

Engelmann said Yamaha will sell through IBDs and e-IBDs. 

“There is a reawakening of bicycling in the U.S. right now. I would hesitate to say that it’s because of e-bikes; however, there are more non-common consumers coming into bicycle retail looking for power-assist bicycles now than ever before,” Engelmann said. “E-bikes are now giving the retailer the opportunity to win the test ride again.” 

Yamaha’s mid-drive motor system is currently spec’d by several other brands in the U.S. and Europe, including Haibike and Giant. Engelmann said Yamaha will continue offering the drive as an OE product.

Yamaha has the potential to give e-bikes a significant boost. Its brand name is well known, and with $16.5 billion in global sales last year, Yamaha has the deep pockets to support a national rollout.

Its current mid-drive line has been well received, and because of its extensive corporate presence in the United States, Yamaha already has a built-in service and support network.

E-bike service centers will be in Cypress, California, where the e-bike staff is located; and Kennesaw, Georgia, outside of Atlanta. Those offices, along with a third location in Wisconsin, will handle warehousing and shipping.

Yamaha also offers in-house financing for retailers and consumers through the Yamaha Motor Finance Corp.

While few Americans would associate Yamaha with e-bikes, the Japanese company says it manufactured the world’s first electrically assisted bicycle.

Called the PAS, Yamaha introduced the bike in Japan in 1993. The original used a mid-drive motor and a shaft drive, along with a heavy lead-acid battery, and had a range of about 12 miles.

Yamaha has sold more than 2 million e-bikes since, Engelmann said.


Topics associated with this article: Interbike

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