A Business Biography of BMW

by JRO on October 29, 2013

  • SumoMe

Headquartered in Munich, Bavaria, BMW is one of the three biggest and most popular automakers in Germany, alongside Audi and Mercedes-Benz. It is also one of the best-selling luxury automobile brands in the world, renowned for its dedication to super engine performance and exciting driving dynamics.


The initials “BMW” stand for “Bayerische Motoren Werke,” which translates to Bavarian Motor Works in English. BMW’s origins can be traced back to 1913, when engineer Karl Friedrich Rapp established an aircraft manufacturing company named Rapp Motorenwerke. It was located in a suburb of Munich, next to Gustav Flugmaschinefabrik, the shop of aircraft pioneer and fellow Bavaria native Gustav Otto. However, financial troubles led both men to leave their respective companies, Otto in 1916 and Rapp the following year. The new owners subsequently merged their companies to form Bayersiche Flugzeungwerke. Eventually the company was given its present name.

New Name, New Orientation

At the end of World War I in 1918, BMW had to stop aircraft engine production in accordance with the terms of the Versailles Armistice Treaty. In response, the company gradually shifted to producing motorcycles by 1923, starting with the flat-twin engine-powered R 32. By then the company had redesigned its logo to reflect BMW’s new direction; four alternating panels representing the blue-and-white color scheme of the Bavarian flag were placed within a black circle.

In 1928, BMW commenced production of what would bring the company most of its acclaim: vehicles. The first car was the Dixi 3/15, an open roof-bearing automobile with a 15-horsepower four-cylinder engine and a top speed of 50 mph. In 1933, the BMW 303 saloon — the first Beemer to use an inline six-cylinder engine — made its debut. It was also the first car to sport the most distinctive BMW vehicular trademark: the twin kidney-shaped radiator grille.

Period of Turbulence

Throughout the 1930s, BMW produced some of the most powerful and luxurious automobiles in the world. However, the following decade would be devastating for the company. At the end of the Second World War in 1945, virtually all of BMW’s factories laid in ruins. Moreover, the Allies imposed a three-year production ban on BMW for supplying aircraft rockers and engines to the Nazis. When BMW finally came out with the 501, its first post-war vehicle, customers were generally turned off by the presence of a luxury sedan in a devastated economy.

Resurgence and Dominance

In the 1950s, BMW struggled to recuperate. Recovery wasn’t significant until the beginning of the 1960s, when the company churned out a sedan line-up that consisted of the 1500, 1600, 1800 and 2000. With a sleeker, more modern aesthetic design, enhanced suspension, and more engine power than ever before, BMW’s sales numbers increased, and by the 1970s, the company was back on its feet. It was during this period that BMW introduced three of its most popular model series: the mid-size 5 Series in 1972, the compact 3 Series in 1975, and the full-size 7 Series in 1977.

Current Status

During the ’60s, BMW was producing fewer than 500,000 cars annually. Half a century later that number has increased to almost two million per year. Today, BMW owns and produces the small Mini economy cars and the luxurious Rolls-Royce brand. BMW also continues to produce motorcycles, under its BMW Motorrad brand. In 2012, the company earned about £77 billion in gross revenue.


Francis Patterson writes on car mechanics, car repair, the auto industry, car dealerships, car dealership software, car maintenance, car technology and other related areas. To learn more about dealership software take a peek at the automotive CRM software from Car-Research XRM.

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