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Published on Fri Nov 25 2022

The History Of BMW

BMW is an iconic name in the automobile industry and needs no introduction. Owning and driving one of these luxury cars instantly puts you in a different league, deserving respect and recognition.

But do you know the history of BMW and how it all started? If not, this post on BMW's history is all you need to know.

Origin of the name BMW

The history of BMW dates back to 1913 when Rapp Motorenwerke GmbH started manufacturing its first aircraft. For the uninitiated, Rapp supplied the aircraft to the German army in WW11.

Back then, Rapp Motorenwerke was headquartered in Munich, where another company, Gustav Otto Flugmaschinenfabrik, fitted the engines into the aircraft. However, the latter company declared bankruptcy in 1916 and became Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG, the following year in 1917, Rapp Motor changed its name to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, which means Bavarian Engine Works Company.

BMW became a stock corporation in 1918 since the Treaty of Versailles prevented the German nation from producing aircraft. As the company shifted its production to building motors and railway brakes, it caught the attention of Knorr-Bremse AG, a major player in the brakes industry, and the company eventually went on to acquire the majority of BMW's stocks in 1920. This turn of events resulted in the end of BMW as an independent company, thankfully, this was only temporary.

The revival of BMW

From 1920 to 1922, BMW was not a recognized name and remained obscure in the stock market. However, Camillo Castiglioni, who was an aircraft engineer and a major stockholder in the Berlin-based Knorr-Bremse AG, bought BMW. Castiglioni had extensive experience in aircraft and other types of machinery construction and took over engine construction under BMW.

In addition to taking charge of productions, he also took over the employees, operations, and the company's logo and transferred them to Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG or BFW.

The same year, the company's entire factory and productions were moved to Lerchenauer Strasse in Munich and the car company's name was changed to Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, which is the name we know today.

How BMW got its birthday

BMW AG is very closely tied with BFW because it is its legal successor, it is evident in the fact that BMW's main manufacturing plant, at present in Milbertshofen, Munich, was BFW's parent manufacturing plant.

In addition to BMW being the legal successor, BFW also gave its founding date, March 7, 1916, to BMW AG, which is known as BMW's birthday today.

BMW and its history with motorbikes and cars

Right after the final branding of BMW in 1922, the company went into producing motorcycles. BMW was still producing railway brakes, household items, farm equipment and motorcycle parts, but a fully assembled machine was yet to be made.

In 1923, the first motorcycle BMW R32 was produced under the brand, BMW Motorrad. Prior to this, BMW was producing motorcycle parts for other companies.

The BMW R32 was powered by a boxer-twin or flat-twin engine, the brand's signature engine type. BMW still manufactures motorcycles with this engine, but the company has also produced several models with different engines since its first motorcycle hit the market.

Fun fact: BMW's R32 motorcycle had a displacement of 494cc and was fitted with an 8.5 hp engine that allowed it to achieve a top speed of 59 mph or 95 km/h, which was a world record that remained unbeaten until 1937.

Around this time, as an independent company, BMW was undergoing significant growth and went on to purchase AWE or Automobilwerk Eisenach, a car company based in Germany. Eisenach was already producing Dixi 3/15, which was essentially a licensed copy of the popular car, Austin 7.

When BMW took over the Eisenach in 1928, the Dixi 3/15 became its first production car, BMW 3/15. In 1932, BMW put a spin on the existing Dixi 3/15 and another model, Wartburg DA3, without much success.

However, in 1932 the company designed and produced its first four-cylinder engine car called the BMW 3/20, with resounding success. This was followed by the straight-six engine BMW 303 in 1933.

The BMW 303 had a more conventional design than the 3/20 and was bigger in size. In addition, the 303 was designed with a kidney grille, becoming a signature of the brand and recognizable anywhere.

Evolution of BMW cars

Ever since BMW designed and produced its first car in 1933, the company has gone a long way in the automobile industry.

BMW has produced every type of automobile, from range rovers, SUVs, luxury sports cars, and turbocharged petrol engine models, in 2013, BMW also started producing electric cars, further diversifying its extensive profile.

2016 saw the first plug-in hybrid cars from BMW, with G11 in the 7 series and F30 in the 3 series, respectively.

BMW – The journey so far

BMW is a company that had a great start, only to head downhill within a few years. However, with the help of the right investors, it recovered brilliantly and became a choice for the rich and the elite.

This now iconic automobile company almost went bankrupt in the 1950’s, when they forayed into manufacturing luxury sedans. The second recovery of BMW from its financial misery was slow but steady, with several business deals taking repeated hits. For instance, BMW's deal with the Rover Group to enter the SUV industry lost the company about $4 billion during the 1990s.

However, BMW remained consistent with its production of premium cars and making business deals with other brands. The transaction with the British brand MINI and another iconic brand, Rolls-Royce, revived BMW as a name to reckon with among car lovers and the automobile industry and firmly established its status as one of the most prestigious car names in the 20th century.

The history of BMW is not one of smooth rides, but it is a remarkable one of near disasters with astounding comebacks.

BMW currently has several factories outside of Germany, including ones in Britain, South Africa, and the US. Having celebrated several milestones, including its 100th year of being in business, BMW continues to reign in the automobile industry and is currently valued at $50.11 billion.