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Yamaha intends to bolster its flaccid motorcycling profitability by becoming a mass-market car manufacturer, the company has announced. It unveiled a prototype vehicle — variously described as an ultra-compact or microcar — at the recent Tokyo Motor Show.

Called the Motiv, this will be available with a choice of three power trains. There will be a pure electric version, a petrol-electric hybrid and a conventional petrol option with a 1000cc three-cylinder motor. Production is expected to start in 2019. Development was outsourced by Yamaha to Gordon Murray Design, a British company operating from Shalford in Surrey which is billed as a world leader in automotive design.

The only four-wheeled products in Yamaha’s current range are quadbike and side-by-side ATVs, as well as golf buggies. A previous concept project, involving a high-performance sports car, quietly foundered when the Japanese economy hit the rocks 20-odd years ago. However, Yamaha is a long-established contract manufacturer making car engines for Toyota.