Though various tilting three-wheel models preceded it, the Piaggio MP3 seemed like a radical departure in thinking about urban mobility when it debuted in 2006. The implication was, and remains, that concerns about stability and control are major hindrances to new buyers entering the market. This holds true, at least for European buyers. Piaggio has sold more than 125,000 three-wheeled scooters worldwide and other companies, such as Peugeot and Quadro, have followed with their own tilting three wheeled models.
Yamaha announced this week (in a story on MSN Japan) that they’re joining the fray with their LMW (Leaning Multi-Wheeler). It features a familiar setup: linked-suspension, dual wheels in front with a single wheel in the rear. The company is seeking to differentiate its version by offering a sportier configuration that’s both a capable commuter and also a high-performance ride. That is, less of a city-only solution than the current Piaggio Yourban and LT models, and less of a cruiser than Peugeot’s cushy Metropolis 400i.
In 2007, Yamaha showed an aggressive tilting four-wheeler concept, the Tesseract. It’s currently unknown whether the LMW employs the same engineering as the Tesseract for the front wheels, whether Yamaha developed new tech for this model, or whether the design is licensed.
The Yamaha LMW will carry a substantial 1,000,000¥ price tag (approximately $10,000 USD). Specs are not available yet, but the scooter is expected to make its full debut at the Tokyo Motor Show in November with a possible early unveiling at EICMA earlier that month.
Yamaha fans in the US shouldn’t hold their breath, though. The luxury scooter market (anything over $9,000 MSRP) is still new here, and mostly unproven. Piaggio’s MP3 may have a devoted fan base in the US, but sales were so soft that none have been imported since 2012. The Yourban 300, announced for US sales a couple years ago, never materialized. Dealers have slashed prices on stock, as the company ordered heavily in 2010 and according to some sources is still sitting on a large quantity of unsold MP3s. This not only underscores the differences between commuter cultures in the US, Europe and Asia, but also the economics of scooters. While many scooter fans are willing to pay a premium for a scooter (compared to a motorcycle of similar displacement and features), the addition of a costly technology pushed the MP3 beyond the reach and interest of many.