Chapter5 Progress 1985~ As Manufacturer for Next Generation

Tohatsu targeted global market Tohatsu targeted global market

Foundation of joint venture company “Tohatsu Marine Corporation”

the first Chairman Matsumotothe first Chairman Matsumoto

In February 1988, Tohatsu established a joint venture company, “Tohatsu Marine Corporation” with Brunswick. Matsumoto became the first president of that company.

With Nissho Iwai and Itochu, two of the Japan’s biggest trading companies, Tohatsu had introduced its outboards to U.S., the biggest market for outboard motors. Brunswick, the parent company of Mercury Marine, was seeking a Japanese partner who could supply products with advanced technology and productivity.

After fierce competition, Mercury Marine showed a great interest in Tohatsu.

Mercury Marie hoped to have a capital participation in Tohatsu in early discussion, but at last it was decided that a joint venture company would be established. This new company was located in Okaya, Nagano, a mountainous area of Japan. At the same time, Tohatsu started to reconstruct the facilities of Okaya Plant, and the first stage of the construction; a new full-scale assembly line for Outboard motors up to 120-horsepower, was completed in November 1988.

Outboards OEM supply to Nissan

Brunswick was not the only company to show an interest in Tohatsu outboard motors; but Nissan Motor Corp. also sought affiliation with Tohatsu, conceiving their domestic and worldwide expansion plan.

Tohatsu’s outboard business has thrived and established a strong position, especially overseas, by collaborating with these great partners.


Revolutionary changes in Production, sales operations

Daily works underwent revolutionary changes in Tohatsu at that time. For more efficient operation and cost reductions in the materials for products, new advanced systems and methods, SPECS (Strategic / Sales, Planning / Performance, Evaluation & Clinic System) promoted by Japan Management Association were introduced.

While Japan was thriving in a buoyant economy, all these revolutionary changes and developments in Tohatsu were carried out in anticipation of competition in foreign markets.

Development of Tohtasu’s original Product bore fruit Development of Tohtasu’s original Product bore fruit

Development of small-size, full-automatic fire engine and low-noise fire pump

 fire engine fire engine

In fire fighting fields, a small-sized automatic fire fighting truck was developed. A remote-based fire pump was put on a truck with a water tank, a searchlight and a foam extinguisher, All of this equipment could be controlled by a microcomputer. Based on data from thousands of fire fighting records, an exclusive microcomputer program was developed. It made an entirely automatic fire fighting operation possible just by pressing a “start” botton.

Today, Tohatsu is the leader in market share in the domestic fire fighting pump industry.

Back then, the biggest problem with the fire fighting pump was its noise. People in residential areas had complained about the noise made by outside trainings and they requested low-noise levels in the powerful pump. To meet their request, Tohatsu rose to the challenge to produce a pump with high performance with a comprehensive noise reduction.

Development of fishing boats

In the past, to allow a focus on the production of outboard motors as an engine manufacturer, Tohatsu was reluctant to manufacture boats. It had found difficulties, however, in further development of outboard engines and meeting requests from end users without knowing the characteristics of boats. This led to Tohatsu making itself a boat builder by collaborating with Techno Kasei Ind. Corp.

In 1993, the king of the Japanese fishing boat, TF series, was released by Tohatsu. Even today, this series still enjoys its popularity in the domestic market. TFW series, for professionals, attracts expert fishermen as well.

Changes for preservation of global environment Changes for preservation of global environment

2-stroke or 4-stroke?


As seen in the motor vehicle industry, it has always been a huge technical challenge for gasoline engine manufacturers to reduce exhaust gas emissions.

The outboard engines industry, similarly, has faced the same challenge.

2-stroke engines, still hugely popular even after emission regulations were enforced in some countries and regions, had the disadvantage of emitting a certain amount of incomplete burnt gas, while having the advantage of simple structure, light weight and fewer maintenance requirements.

This led to a big question, which would decide Tohatsu’s future. The question was whether to hold on to 2-stroke line ups or to embrace new technology in 4-stroke. Eventually, Tohatsu decided to go with both 2 and 4-stroke.

Road to 4-stroke engines

Satoshi Inomata Satoshi Inomata

In 1998, after the retirement of Matsumoto, Satoshi Inomata became the new president of Tohatsu and Tohatsu Marine Corporation.

Announcing the slogan, “To be a company that offer spontaneous service to society”, Inomata planned to strengthen the development of two major products, Outboards and fire pumps, and contributed to many people, including stockholders, end users, client companies, and employees, etc. in different ways.



In accordance with this policy, Tohatsu, tackling environmental problem, completed the development of 4-stroke engines and launched them into the market.

Released in 2006, VF53AS was the first B-3 grade compact fire pump with 4-stroke engine and computerized fuel injection. Compared to the traditional models, this model is very environmentally-friendly emitting much less exhaust gas.

Tohatsu introduced TLDI; Contract for license affiliation with Orbital Corp. Ltd. signed


At the same time, TLDI (Two-stroke, Low pressure, Direct Injection) series was developed and released into the market in 2000. This advanced 2-stroke fuel injection technology has been made standard equippment in engines bigger than 40-hourspower.

By injecting suitable amounts of fuel and air controlled by the micro tip, TLDI overcame 2-stroke’s original disadvantage of emitting incompletely burnt gas, while retaining the great advantage of a 2-stroke’s inherent power. This injection system produced gas much lower emissions than those generated by regular 2-stroke engines. At the same time, it remains 2-stroke’s power, lightness, and its compact shape.

In 1998 that Tohatsu made an agreement with Orbital Corp. in order to develop the direct injection system. Orbital had taken out a patent on the direct injection electric control system and this was the technology which was introduced into TLDI series.

Completion of new Headquarters Building

New Headquarters BuildingNew Headquarters Building

On the 13th April 2000, the construction of the new headquarters Building was completed and Tohatsu celebrated this new step.

This new 4-story building is shared with the sales departments of marine and fire fighting pumps on the first and second floors, and general affairs and the financial department in a portion of the third floor. The executive rooms are on another area of the third floor while a training room, accommodating 70 people, is on the fourth floor.

Strengthen company’s internal structure for systematic distribution Strengthen company’s internal structure for systematic distribution

Acquisition of “ISO9000 series” by Tokyo Plant and Tohatsu Marine Corp.

Tohatsu America Corporation

In August 2001, Tokyo plant, manufacturing fire pumps, was certified according to ISO 9002, the quality assurance standard of the International Organization for Standardization.

In July 2001, Tohatsu Marine also acquired ISO 9002 certification. Moreover, Tohatsu has regarded acquisition of the ISO9001 certificate as a prerequisite in every plant and headquarters in 2004.

Meanwhile, Tohatsu has acquired ISO14001, which standardizes environmental management systems.

Establishment of TAC (Tohatsu America Corporation)

Tohatsu America CorporationTohatsu America Corporation

In May 2002, Tohatsu America Corporation (TAC) was founded in, and started its distribution in, U.S., the world’s biggest outboard market.

TAC has been located in Dallas in U.S., its main task being distribution and servicing of Tohatsu’s marine business.

Tohatsu newly-established Komagane Plant

Tohatsu Komagane Plant・Tohatsu Marine CorporationTohatsu Komagane Plant・Tohatsu Marine Corporation

In 2003, annual output of outboard motors by TMC reached 115,785 units. In preparation for the growing demand, Tohatsu acquired a factory site in Komagane, Nagano, and on 18th of January 2005 a ceremony was held for the completion of this new outlet for Tohatsu products for the next generation in the 21st century.

Prior to this, Okaya Plant was closed on the 18th of December 2004 after 61 years of operation. Okaya plant had been built in anticipation of evacuation from Itabashi Tokyo, which was expected to be bombed during the war, and until its closure it had played a big role as one of Tohatsu’s main outlets, together with Tokyo Plant.

Okaya Plant had scarcely been capable of meeting the growing demands from all over the world, even after rebuilding and reconstructing its main facilities several times.

“With our two main products, outboards and fire pumps, and as Tohatsu’s management policy put great emphasis on seeking the higher profit and having good figures at the bottom line in 2006 fiscal year, we hit the record of 15,214,980,000 yen for our annual gross sales”, said Mitsuru Kaneko, the current president of Tohatu, who is also playing the president of TMC since 2006.

“Despite this temporarily improved profitability, however, it is not yet at an acceptable level. The biggest reason for that is that outboard sales, 58% of Tohatsu gross sales, depend so much on the overseas market, figuring 95% of the annual sales quantity of exported units, and that leaves us at great risk from currency exchange rates and the cost of materials ”, he added. “It was apparent that the great competition in the outboard market would continue, and manufacturers would be required to conform to the emission regulations in order to survive in the market. To meet these demands and to cut the costs, it was inevitably necessary to build the new bigger Komagane Plant”, he concluded.

There is one big building for the new Komagane Plant. In this building, materials supply, processing, painting, assembling, operating, storage, and delivery are all take place. Cutting-edge assembly lines have been implemented for the better streamlining of operations.

Old Okaya Plant used to be a model factory in Nagano prefecture, where many other manufacturers in other sectors have also located their plants. The new Komagane Plant is within commuting distance from Okaya-shi and skilled workers in the old factory could keep their jobs in the new plant. Besides these staff, Tohatsu Komagane Plant was also looking for new human resources.

Today in Japan, manufacturing plants are moving to low-cost countries for their operation, leading to declining jobs in the domestic industry, which has been a very serious problem. But starting the operation in Komagane-shi by Tohatsu doubled the job vacancies in the neighboring cities in Nagano prefecture.