Toyota Motor Corporation is a global leader in the automotive industry. From humanoid robots to off-road pickup trucks, the Japanese car company covers a number of bases. But there’s one motor vehicle we don’t really see from the manufacturer––a bike. Does Toyota make a motorcycle?
Short answer? No. Toyota doesn’t make a production motorcycle right now. However, Toyo Motors––a subsidiary––did make them once upon a time.
Plus, there are mobility projects like scooters, the i-ROAD, and a SEMA motocross concept. In fact, it’s difficult to discern whether or not Toyota ever will actually make a production motorcycle. With all the racing roots and off-road DNA, it’s easy to imagine that whatever it came up with would probably be a pretty rad bike. Let’s take a look at some of the history of Toyota motorcycle production.
Toyo Motors and Toyota
After landing a job in Toyota’s research lab in 1942, Kazuo Kawamata engineered the first Bismotor engine for bicycles. Soon after, he founded Toyo Motors. This served as an independent entity but remained a Toyota Motor Corporation subsidiary––according to Ride Apart.
Following the World Wars, the people of Japan wanted to go places. There was a high demand for inexpensive, reliable transportation. For a time, the Toyo Motors motorbikes built under Toyota’s corporate umbrella saw massive success.
Ride Apart reports that in 1952 the annual production for these Toyota motorcycles reached about 10,000 units. However, these bikes weren’t really Toyota motorcycles. In fact, reliability issues soon dissuaded the public from purchasing them.
The Honda Super Cub
The Honda Super Cub released soon after Toyo Motors’ attempt at giving people a reliable and capable motorbike. With the simplicity and accessibility of the Honda Super Cub, the Toyo Motors offering quickly became obsolete. Everyone wanted this new Honda bike that could handle rough roads that you could typically repair yourself (if) things went wrong.
The issue with Kawamata’s bikes was that Toyo Motors was outsourcing the parts and components. These parts were then assembled in the Kariya factory. Despite employees and engineers working closely with its production requesting that they make their components in-house, it never came to fruition. This ultimately led to chronic unreliability.
With the rise of the Honda Super Cub and the fall of Toyo Motors’ reliability, it’s easy to see why Toyota Motor Corporation never really got into producing motorcycles. The company did, however, excel in other areas. The iconic Toyota Corolla, for example, is the world’s most-sold passenger car in history.
The JGR/Toyota motocross bike concept
In association with Joe Gibbs Racing Motocross (JGRMX), Toyota produced a concept motocross bike. This Toyota motorcycle was exhibited at the 2009 SEMA show. According to Toyota Newsroom, the team started out with a 2009 Yamaha YZ450F to provide a base platform.
The group decided on a special polished frame that was lighter than what you saw on most bikes at the time. The Toyota JGRMX motorcycle featured carbon fiber body panels and a fully customized fuel tank. With countless other unique and purpose-engineered components, this Toyota motorcycle concept boasted capability and “an exotic appearance.”
The Toyota i-ROAD
More recently, Toyota Motor Corporation released the i-ROAD concept. Although this is still not available in the states, it is in production in other parts of the world––namely, Japan and parts of Europe. This is a car/motorcycle hybrid that shows just how much the automotive world is shifting toward electrified changes.
This i-ROAD is an enclosed electric tricycle with interesting lean technology. In fact, it goes pretty far in demonstrating that the limits for future Toyota vehicles are far-reaching indeed. Does Toyota make a motorcycle? Unless you count the i-ROAD, the answer is no. However, there’s no telling what the future holds.