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The company started life as an aircraft engine manufacturer named RMW (Rapp Motor Works) in 1913, and became BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) in 1917. The company began building motorcycles in 1918 and did not make its first car until 1927. That first model was actually a licenced version of an Austin 7, and was named the Dixi.
BMW’s main focus remained aero engine and motorcycle production, although it also produced some outstanding cars in the inter-war period – the famous BMW 328 being one. With the onset of World War II, BMW once again devoted its resources to producing aircraft engines for the German military. Its facilities were extensively bombed by the Allies, with the Munich facility completely destroyed.
After the war, BMW survived by selling kitchen supplies and bicycles. Motorcycle production resumed in 1948 and cars in 1952. With the German economy struggling, BMW was far more successful building motorcycles than cars. It struck a deal to build the Isetta bubble car under licence from Iso, and ended up building more than 160,000 of the little vehicles over its lifespan. However, the company was still struggling.
A proposal to merge with Daimler-Benz (parent company to Mercedes-Benz) in 1959 was voted down, and the company ended up with a majority holding being purchased by the Quandt family. Under its new ownership, BMW concentrated on building compact sporting cars. The move was a success and the company’s fortunes turned around in only a few years. Its reputation for sporting luxury vehicles remains to this day despite a massive range proliferation away from sporting saloons.
In the 1990s, BMW embarked on an ultimately unsuccessful purchase of the Rover Group. Brands like MINI and Land Rover were successfully rehabilitated, but Rover itself was a disaster. Land Rover was sold to Ford and Rover was sold to an infamous consortium called Phoenix, which rapidly collapsed amid allegations of financial misconduct. BMW also purchased the Rolls-Royce brand after a bidding war with Volkswagen.
BMW today sells nearly 2 million cars each year around the world, as well as over 130,000 motorcycles. MINI adds more than 300,000 vehicles per year to that total, and Rolls-Royce another 3,000+ vehicles annually.
In Britain, BMW UK has experienced strong growth in recent years. More than 167,000 new cars were registered in 2015, a 12% increase on 2014 figures.
Contrary to popular belief, the BMW logo does not represent a propeller as a nod to its aircraft engine origins. The blue-and-white ‘propeller’ is actually a representation of the blue-and-white chequered flag of the state of Bavaria.
BMW IN THE FORUM AT THE CAR EXPERT
- BMW 320d or Audi A4 1.9 or VW Passat 1.9? All about 2006-08. Any suggestions?
- 8 months, 3 weeks ago