Yamaha Abandons McLaren F1 Designer's Baby Supercar, Car Market Altogether, This Sucks

Photos: Yamaha

Back in 2017, it looked like Yamaha was preparing itself to enter the car market with two exciting concepts: the Cross Hub Concept compact pickup truck and the Sports Ride Concept, both projects influenced by McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray. Now the powersports brand has ditched any effort to build its awesome concepts.

Yamaha spokesman Naoto Horie confirmed the sorry news to Autocar at this week’s Tokyo Motor Show:

Although McLaren F1 designer Murray had said the iStream system could be employed profitably for production volumes of between 1000 and 350,000 cars, Yamaha spokesman Naoto Horie confirmed at this year’s Tokyo motor show that the projects would not proceed, with the firm preferring to focus on smaller, more bike-like mobility concepts if it strayed from its core motorcycle projects.

“Cars do not feature in our long-term plans any more,” said Horie. “That is a decision taken by President Hidaka for the foreseeable future, as we could not see a way to develop either car to make it stand out from the competition, which is very strong.

“The sports car in particular had great appeal for us as enthusiasts, but the marketplace is particularly difficult. We now see other opportunities.”

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Yamaha’s collaboration with Gordon Murray Design included three car concepts. The first was the Motiv city car in 2013, then the exciting Sports Ride Concept in 2015, and most recently the Cross Hub Concept in 2017.

Surprisingly, these car concepts weren’t just two Yamaha motorcycles haphazardly taped together side-by-side.

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Both the Motiv and the Sports Ride Concept were designed on an all-new platform and manufacturing system dubbed iStream that focused on weight reduction utilizing techniques developed in Formula One, according to Gordon Murray Design’s website. It was supposedly suitable for multiple powertrains and vehicle types.

The most exciting concept to come from this collaboration was by far the Sports Ride Concept—a Mazda Miata-sized two-seater sports car with a carbon fiber chassis and a claimed weight of just 1,653 pounds.

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With small automakers like Mitsubishi, Suzuki and Mazda struggling to keep up with the rest of the increasingly-homogenized automotive industry already, and with newer companies like Tesla struggling to reach manufacturing goals while burning through cash—not to mention all the new companies like Faraday Future that are struggling to make it at all—it’s no wonder Yamaha sobered up to the idea of selling cars on its own.

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My bet, however, is that they were hopeful these concept cars would be enough to bring in a new partner, maybe selling off the Sports Ride Concept to a bigger company looking for a niche performance model without the overhead of research and development—like Toyota for a new MR2 perhaps, or just selling off the unique vehicle architecture since it’s so adaptable.

But that never happened, though it still could, but it’s a damn shame because I really would have liked to know what a modern, small, lightweight carbon fiber sports car from Gordon Murray would have been like to drive. It hurts, even more, to know that these designs look more unique and interesting than most of the standard cars being produced today.

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I just don’t know who would buy one.

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