BMW is one of the most recognized and admired automobile builders in the world. The company is based in Bavaria, but builds cars around the globe, with factories in South Africa, the USA, United Kingdom, and Brazil. Here is a brief history of BMW.
The Early Years of BMW
BMW was born out of a pair of companies, Rapp Motorenwerke, and Automobilwerk Eisenach. In 1917 Rapp Motorenwerke lost an important executive and decided to rename the company Bayerische Motorenwerke. A few years later the Bayerische bought Automobilwerk Eisenach, which led to the first production of BMW cars. The first models were a design that was being developed by Automobilwerk and became the BMW 3/15 that launched BMW into cars. In 1932 BMW released the BMW 3/20, which was the first car designed by the merged companies. The 3/20 was quickly followed the BMW 303, which was BMW’s first car with their straight-six engine. The early years brought great success to BMW, so they quickly expanded their line of cars with new models of coupes, convertibles, and sedans.
World War II – Destruction and Rebirth
BMW produced engines for aircraft during World War II, making them a prime target for Allied bombing missions. The combination of war efforts and bomb damage forced BMW to cease auto manufacturing. It took a few years after the war before BMW was ready to relaunch their line of cars. In the 1950s, BMW rolled out new designs of BMW automobiles, including the BMW 502. The 502 was the first BMW powered by a V8 engine.
The Company That Couldn’t Be Stopped
The 1960s were not kind to BMW. The company battled financial challenges leaving them deeply in debt and making them a prime target for takeover by other companies. This possibility did not appeal to shareholders and BMW executives. They had a different vision for the company. The executive voted to launch a new mission for BMW called “New Class”. It switched the emphasis of building economy cars to building cars with a more luxurious feel. This included a line of new sedans with upgraded seats. The “New Class” program quickly turned about BMW’s financial situation. The New Class plan was responsible for the launch of 2000 C and 2000 C2 luxury coupes, along with the BMW 02 series. BMW refocused on using their impressive straight-six engines.
The 70s, 80s, and 90s – A Time For New Technology
The 70s brought on an era of innovation at BMW. In the late 1970s, BMW’s sports car division built their first mid-engine car, the BMW M1. This started a series of new models including the BMW M, the M21, and the E32 750i. These cars caught the world’s attention. BMW launched its new motorsport division to help redefine the company. The division’s first car was the BMW M. This era also brought a diesel engine to BMW, which was used to power the BMW M21. The innovations didn’t stop. The E32 750i was powered by BMW’s new V-12 engine. This new V-12 was used in a new lineup of vehicles in the early 90s which featured improved luxury and enhanced seat covers.
The New Era Continues
The era of the SUV was quickly recognized by BMW, who joined in with the BMW X5. This era saw another major change at BMW. They switched many of their line of cars to automatic transmissions. Efficiency became a new trademark of BMW, too. This led the company to produce turbocharged engines which improved both fuel economy and performance. The BMW i3 was the company’s first entry into the electric car industry.