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Yanmar Tractor History Explained

The rich story of Yanmar dates back to 1912, when the company was first started in Osaka, Japan under the name Yamaoka Hatsudoki Kosakusho.  Yanmar founder, Magokichi Yamaoka, was inspired to build the most reliable, compact, and efficient engines to ease the burden for farmers and laborers who worked long hours in harsh conditions.

The Early Years of Yanmar

With more than a century of history since inspiration struck Magokichi Yamaoka, there are too many important milestones to mention.  However, these foundations laid the groundwork for the company’s future growth and success.

The First Engine

While Yanmar is known for diesel engines, the first engine produced was a three-horsepower vertical oil-powered engine.  Released in 1920, this was Japan’s first oil-powered engine designed specifically for agriculture.  Soon after, in March 1921, a horizontal oil-powered engine was released and was the first to bear the Yanmar name.  This engine was called the “Yanmar throttle-governed oil engine.”

Adopting the Yanmar Name

Though the company traces its roots back to 1912, the Yanmar name was not adopted until 1921.  An employee suggested using the name of the Yanma Dragonfly, a symbol of a rich harvest in Japan, and together with the “Yama” from the name of the company founder, Magokichi Yamaoka, the name of “Yanmar” was created.

Yanmar Expansion & Innovation

The efficient and innovative new Yanmar engine soon found a host of practical uses.  Magokichi showed the machine around Japan, attaching a rice huller to it and demonstrating its practical uses to astonished farmers.  The response was overwhelming, and the company began to introduce its engines into more and more applications.

Marine Engines

Yanmar’s first foray into engines outside agriculture was for marine use. As the brand’s popularity grew and new engine models were introduced, Yanmar’s first marine model was released in 1925 for use in fishing boats.  To this day, Yanmar remains one of the most trusted names in marine equipment.

Overseas Expansion

As Yanmar’s reputation and popularity grew, so did demand.  In addition to the Tokyo branch, new branches were opened across Japan, as well as in South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Shanghai.  Though business was booming, the Great Depression of 1929 would slow the company’s momentum, if only briefly. 

The Diesel Engine

The diesel engine was known to be ideal for agricultural use, but its main drawback was size.  To create an engine powerful enough for farm work, the size just wasn’t practical.  After more than a year of work and numerous setbacks, optimism was dwindling that a smaller, effective diesel engine could be created. 

Then, in December 1933 there was a breakthrough:  The latest prototype small-size diesel engine fired up and ran smoothly.  The resulting product was called the HB Model, and set Yanmar on the trajectory to become the leader in diesel engines we know today. 

The Yanmar Tractor

The heart and soul of a tractor is the engine. Yet, the Yanmar tractor didn’t come along immediately.  It took several decades of continuing innovation and the highly successful Y Series tiller to pave the way for the company’s entrance into the competitive tractor market.

Yanmar YM273

The first Yanmar tractor was the YM273 model.  Launched in 1967, it featured a water-cooled diesel engine with up to 23 horsepower.  Despite other competitors entering the market earlier, Yanmar made up ground with the company’s commitment to quality and reliability.

North American Expansion

One of the biggest keys to Yanmar’s sustained success was careful, calculated expansion.  Instead of rushing into every global market, the company grew and established its reputation over time.  First Asia, then the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Europe. 

Finally in 1979, Yanmar Tractor USA began operations in North America.  The initial focus was on creating small tractors of 40 horsepower or less that could be used for landscaping, maintenance, and light construction work.

The Modern Lineup

Over the years, Yanmar has had many technological breakthroughs – ranging from the world's first commercially successful small horizontal water-cooled diesel engine with a cold-start system to hydromechanical transmission technology – that have led to the advanced tractors we know today.

Of the current lineup of Yanmar tractors, the SA Series was introduced in 2014, with the YT2 and YT3 Series following in 2016.  With these powerful, state-of-the-art modern machines, Yanmar has been ranked #1 in Product Quality among tractor manufacturers for the last five years in a row: from 2018 through to 2022.

Looking to the Future

Despite the many accolades, industry firsts, and technology breakthroughs, the Yanmar brand isn’t slowing down.  Here are a few of the latest developments as we look to the future.

Yanmar EVO Store

The Yanmar EVO Store is a state-of-the-art, 50,000+ square foot facility located on a 53-acre campus in Acworth, Georgia.  It’s the ultimate destination for an immersive Yanmar experience, offering the Yanmar Academy for advanced training, product demonstration fields, and numerous other unique features.  Opened in 2017, the EVO Store helps Yanmar stay at the forefront of innovation and provide the best possible customer experience.

SA Series Upgrades

The SA Series is one of our most popular tractor lineups ever, but that doesn’t mean we’re satisfied.  In 2022, we released a number of SA Series upgrades designed to provide more value, versatility, and features.  We’re always listening to feedback from real tractor owners, and will continue to deliver the best possible experience for our customers.

Sustainability Initiatives

In addition to building top-of-the-line machines for agriculture and industry, Yanmar is firmly committed to creating a sustainable future.  The Yanmar Green Challenge 2050 aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our products to make them fully green by 2050.  This also includes working toward zero-emissions from our headquarters and facilities.  With this specific focus, we hope to develop clean and safe solutions for the benefit of both industry and society.

If you need any further help or have any questions about service, tractors, implements, or anything else equipment-related, please contact your dealer, local mechanic, or call us at 602-734-9944.  Please ask about our current new and used tractor supply.

If you are looking for old, vintage, classic, or new tractor parts, send us a part request.

Team Tractor Ranch - #1 Tractor Dealer in Arizona. We sell and service most major brands of tractors including Yanmar, Kubota, John Deere, TYM, Mahindra, Kioti, Case, New Holland, Massey Ferguson, Ford, Deutz, Case IH, Farmall, International Harvester, Branson Tractors, LS, Shibura, Claas Tractor, McCormick Tractors, Valtra, Solis, YTO, Montana, and Nortrac.

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