Goodbye Yamaha FZ, Hello Yamaha MT?

Dennis Chung
by Dennis Chung

What's in a name: Yamaha FZ vs. MT

Ever since Yamaha introduced its modern “Hyper Naked” lineup with the FZ-09, there’s been a bit of brand confusion. That’s because, to markets outside of North America, the FZ-09, FZ-07 and FZ-10 are known as the MT-09, MT-07 and MT-10, respectively.

Apart from the name and any changes for local market homologation, the FZ models are the same bikes as their MT counterparts. When they were introduced, it made sense to use the FZ names, as customers were familiar with the name. Even with the FZ-09 launch for the 2014 model year, the older FZ1 remained in the Yamaha Motor U.S.A.’s lineup until 2015 while the FZ6R is still in showrooms as a 2017 model. Meanwhile, in Europe, customers were long familiar with the MT brand from the 1670cc MT-01 produced from 2005 to 2012 and the 660cc twin-cylinder MT-03 offered from 2006 to 2014.

The MT-01 offered a 1670cc V-Twin from Yamaha’s cruisers and the suspension and brakes of an R1.

But is Yamaha better off simplifying its model names under a common nomenclature? There are indications that Yamaha is considering just that.

For one, Yamaha already has the U.S. trademarks for the MT models, applying for the MT-10, MT-09, MT-07 and MT-03 marks on Dec. 11, 2015 (adding a trademark for the MT-125, the name of an entry-level model available overseas, on Aug. 23, 2016). Yamaha also has an active trademark in the U.S. for the MT logo (shown at right), filed Dec. 13, 2016.

Now, the trademark filings on their own do not necessarily tell us Yamaha will use these names. It’s not unusual for companies, including Yamaha, to file U.S. trademarks for product names they use in other markets. It’s unlikely we’ll ever see the MT-125 here, for example (though we hope the R3-based MT-03 will eventually make it over.)

More convincing evidence comes to us from the California Air Resources Board which recently issued an executive order certifying the MT-10 for the 2018 model year:

This executive order certifies two model codes, the MT10JCGY and the MT10JCL. Typically, Yamaha’s CARB documents follow a formula of model code + model year + California tuning + color options. In this case, the codes certify the MT-10 for the model year 2018 (represented by the letter J as per industry convention), C for California model and the colors gray (GY) and blue (L).

For comparison, here’s the executive order for the 2017 FZ-10. The model codes represent the FZ-10 for 2017 (H), California certified version, and the colors black (B) and gray (GY):

Again, the change in model codes, while telling, is not necessarily proof Yamaha is planning a model name change. It’s possible that the MT names were a clerical error that will be corrected later. The 2018 model’s emissions are slightly higher than the 2017 FZ-10’s, however, indicating at least some change in the engine or exhaust system.

It’s important to note however, that none of the other FZ models, apart from this MT-10 filing, have been certified for 2018 as yet by either CARB or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, nor were they among the 2018 models already announced by Yamaha Motor U.S.A. At this point, we may not have an announcement until next month at EICMA.

The Milan show may also see an updated MT-07/FZ-07 which has not been significantly changed since its introduction in the 2015 model year. The MT-07/FZ-09 was updated for 2017, three years after it was introduced, so an -07 revision for 2018 would follow the same time frame.

Incidentally, while CARB hasn’t certified a 2018 FZ-07, it has released an executive order for the 2018 XSR700 certifying it with the same exhaust emissions as last year’s FZ-07:

The fact the FZ-07 was not included in the executive order suggests to us it is being updated for 2018. By comparison, for 2017, CARB certified the FZ-09 together with the XSR900 and the FJ-09, as their engines and exhaust systems were essentially the same.

Once again, the evidence is circumstantial, and CARB may release an executive order for an unchanged 2018 FZ-07 later.

We may turn out to be wrong about all of this, but the multiple red flags we’ve noticed suggest Yamaha has something in the works for the MT/FZ line. Along with a potential FZ-07 update to a full rebranding from FZ to MT, we must also consider the Tracer 700, FJ version of the MT-07 sold in Europe but not yet offered here, plus there’s the recent Yamaha trademark filing in Europe for “ Tracer GT.”

All told, we expect some big news regarding Yamaha’s MT models at EICMA.

Dennis Chung
Dennis Chung

Dennis has been a part of the team since 2008, and through his tenure, has developed a firm grasp of industry trends, and a solid sense of what's to come. A bloodhound when it comes to tracking information on new motorcycles, if there's a new model on the horizon, you'll probably hear about it from him first.

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