Yamaha Marine builds the best 2- and 4-stroke motors, according to a new "engine performance index" compiled by J.D. Power and Associates.

Last year was the first year J.D. Power rated boat-owner customer satisfaction. Outboards were mentioned (Yamaha owners reported experiencing the least problems), though responses weren't quantified.

This year, J.D. Power asked the same 12,000 people in its boat survey about their engines, specifically the following eight attributes:

1) Ease of starting when engine is cold
2) Ease of starting when engine is hot
3) "Quietness" of the engine at cruising speed
4) Ability of the boat to accelerate rapidly
5) Cruising speed of the boat
6) Engine fumes
7) Cruise time/range between fuel stops
8) Standard warranty coverage

The boat/engine owners' answers were then compiled into the engine performance index.


Yamaha had the highest index score among 2-stroke outboard engines, J.D. Power stated. The motors had "high marks for reliability, ease of starting and ability to accelerate rapidly, as well as warranty coverage and claim-handling."

Evinrude got high marks for engine cruising speed, and Mercury had strong performance in fuel economy and low engine fumes.

Yamaha's score was an 851 out of 1,000, Evinrude's was 834, the industry average score was 784, Mercury was at 763 and Johnson's score was 742.


In the 4-stroke category, Yamaha had "strong performance in nearly every key engine attribute measured, particularly in the ability to accelerate rapidly and for cruising speed," J.D. Power stated.

Honda had the second-highest score, and received "high marks for quietness at cruising speed and low engine fumes."

Out of a possible 1,000 points, Yamaha's 4-strokes scored 877, Honda had 848, the industry average was 841, Evinrude was just below that at 838 and Mercury was last with 807.

Only 4 percent of new bass boat owners surveyed by J.D. Power in 2001 ordered 4-stroke outboards, as compared with 15 percent of coastal fishing boat owners and 50 percent of pontoon boat owners.

Yamaha Pleased

"All of us are very pleased with this achievement," said Yamaha Marine Group president Phil Dyskow. "A J.D. Power and Associates award is the ultimate recognition because it is the voice of the customer and how they feel about their engines.

"Most companies would be honored to rank highest in customer satisfaction in one category, but to sweep both outboard engine categories is most gratifying.

"Constantly exceeding expectations and striving to be the industry¹s technological leader is the cornerstone of Yamaha's business plan, and the company has no intention of slowing down its efforts," Dyskow added. "We believe the customer is our boss and is the one best-qualified to determine whether to buy 2- or 4-stroke outboards to best match their boating interests."

4-Strokes Better

One-third of outboard-powered boat owners (not just bass boat owners) reported engine-related problems, J.D. Power stated. The fewest problems were experienced by owners of 4-stroke electronic fuel injection (EFI) outboards. Two-stroke carbureted outboards had the most problems.

"Among the five technologies used in outboard engines, the quality level of 4-stroke EFI and carbureted engines is unparalleled," said Eric Sorensen, director of J.D. Power's marine practice. "In addition to quality, 4-stroke engines are cleaner and quieter than 2-stroke engines, and are very fuel efficient."

The fact that 4-strokes weigh more and cost more than 2-strokes, and generally don't accelerate as fast, "is not much of a deterrent for many boat owners," he said.

Other Study Findings

> In general, the study found that for both 2- and 4-stroke engines, the larger the engine, the fewer the reported problems.

> Boat/motor buyers were most pleased with inboards, followed by sterndrives and outboards.

> Boat owners are more satisfied with engine and boat performance when they choose their own motors. "The importance of installing an engine with sufficient power cannot be overstated because it impacts so many elements of the boating experience," Sorensen said. "An underpowered boat will be a disappointment for the owner every time it's used, and reflects poorly on both engine and boat brands."

> New boat buyers rated engine warranty coverage -- including the way warranty claims are handled -- lower than any other engine-related attribute. "Handling warranty claims is one of the most important attributes in the minds of boat owners," Sorensen said. "People who buy boats also buy automobiles, and they're used to a much higher standard in both service and warranty-related performance. If marine engine manufactures want to build or even maintain customer loyalty, this is one key area to pay attention to. Given the importance to the owner, many manufacturers need to make a concerted effort to improve in this area."

Yamaha Marine Info

Yamaha has been making outboard motors for more than 40 years, and brought its full line to the U.S. market in the 1984 model year. More than 6 million Yamaha outboards have been sold worldwide since its first 7 hp motor was produced in 1960.

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