Learn the Fascinating History of BMW


BMW rose to prominence as a luxury and technological innovator over time. BMW had created a standard for what a single company could do with their line of sports cars and their enticingly comfortable sedans. One of the most well-known and reputable automakers in the world is BMW. BMW is a manufacturer of both executive and city automobiles and has a long and colorful history.

The Significant Events in the History of BMW

BMW was founded as three different manufacturing businesses. These were Vehiclefabrik Eisenach in Thuringia, Rapp Motorenwerke in Bavaria, and Bayersiche Flugzeugwerke. The Bayerische Motoren Werke, often known as the Bavarian Motor Works, was founded in 1917. Rapp Motorenwerke, a company that makes aviation engines, was renamed to BMW and is based in Munich, the state capital of Bavaria in southern Germany. 

However, they only began producing cars. They made airplane engines instead. The BMW III airplane engine was their first offering. It was efficient with fuel and performed well at high altitudes, which led to a flood of orders from the German military and fast growth for BMW. BMW was required by the rules of the Treaty of Versailles to stop producing aircraft engines when the war was over. They made farm equipment, household goods, and railroad brakes to stay in business. Despite the name change and challenges brought by the war, the technological assets, assets, and original workforce all stayed the same. BMW continued to be the leader in automotive innovations.

1916 Establishment of BMW

Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto are the forefathers of BMW. Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke AG (BFW) was created in 1916 because of a government-ordered merger with the Flugmaschinenfabrik Gustav Otto firm. The Rapp Motorenwerke company changed its name to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH in 1917. That corporation was then transformed into an AG in 1918. Later, in 1922, BMW AG gave BFW control of its engine-building operations, including the business and brand names. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG was established on March 7, 1916, and will forever be known as the founding day of BMW.

1917 The Evolution of the BMW Logo

The BMW emblem, which integrates the colors of the Bavarian state, has been proudly featured on each of the company’s products since 1917. The logo, which has subsequently undergone numerous interpretations, first appeared in the company’s advertising at the end of the 1920s as a whirling propeller.

The original BMW insignia, which was listed in the German Imperial Register of Trademarks, kept the previous Rapp logo’s rounded shape. The letters BMW were written in the outer ring of the symbol, which was now enclosed by two gold lines. The company’s emblem was also supposed to represent Bavaria, the company’s native state. The Bavarian state colors of white and blue are displayed in the inner circle quarters of the BMW logo. The BMW emblem’s blue and white colors are arranged inverted due to the local trademark laws of the period, which forbade the use of state coats of arms or other emblems of sovereignty on company logos.

1920’s to 1930s The Launch of BMW Motorbikes

Following the ban on the production of aircraft engines, railway brakes, and inboard engines were produced after the war. In 1920 Knorr Bremse AG bought the company. Meanwhile, investor Camillo Castiglioni purchased engine production, including the personnel and production facilities, the company name, and the blue and white corporate logo.

Moreover, the Berlin Motor Show in 1923 served as the launchpad for BMW motorbikes’ success. With the BMW R 32, the aero-engines producer debuted its first motorcycle. The machine’s build quality was crucial to success. The driving shaft was simpler to maintain than regular chains or belts. It contained all the sections that were likely to need replacement. Even today, the Cardan shaft and the transversely arranged cylinders of the Boxer engine are distinguishing characteristics of BMW motorcycles. Max Friz is credited with creating the R 32’s highly effective overall design, which serves as the turning point in the history of motorcycles. BMW officially became an automaker in 1928. All BMW automobiles were produced at the facility in the German state of Thuringia until the start of the Second World War. 

1933 The Era of National Socialism

Munich Allach Concentration Camp During the War

BMW underwent a transition throughout the National Socialist era, going from a mobility company to an arms manufacturer and eventually becoming one of the most significant businesses involved in the German war economy. Manufacturing cars and motorcycles were still going on, but most of the company’s sales came from the aero-engine business. New locations were created to accommodate the need for armaments, and manufacturing was dramatically increased.

To meet the output targets set by the authorities during the war, the corporate management showed no moral qualms in extensively using detainees from concentration camps and forced labor. Numerous people died from hunger and tiredness while working under such appalling conditions. In addition to bearing a heavy share of the blame for these incidents, BMW surely feels guilty for having committed these crimes. As a result, BMW took part in compensation payments and ordered two academic dissertations to investigate this troubling chapter in its history. The BMW Group has made a conscious decision to support a society that is open and free from prejudice and discrimination.

1930’s to 1940 The Era of Shadow Plants and Aero Engine

Germany’s government provided a significant amount of financial assistance for aircraft construction. The manufacturing of aero-engines was divided into BMW Flugmotorenbau GmbH in 1934 to hide the rise in the number of orders for aero-engines and the rearmament of the German Air Force. Just a year after founding Flugmotorenfabrik Allach GmbH, BMW AG and BMW Flugmotorenbau GmbH transferred their ownership to Luftfahrtkontor GmbH Berlin, which secretly provided government money to the BMW Plant Allach near Munich. The facility has undergone a major expansion to manufacture aircraft engines by 1941.

The development of air-cooled aero-engines was combined by BMW and Brandenburgische Motorenwerke GmbH (Bramo) in Berlin-Spandau, formerly Siemens Apparate- und Maschinenbau GmbH. The Zühlsdorf facility, built next to the Basdorf factory in 1940, was added to the existing factories. In 1941, these two factories combined and took on the name Niederbarnimer Flugmotorenwerke GmbH, Berlin. BMW’s facilities produced aero-engines, but the industrial mass-production facilities at Allach and Dürrerhof saw the highest output rates.

1940’s to 1950s BMW Rising from the Ashes

Following World War II, allied troops seized control of and occupied the BMW factories. Equipment was disassembled because BMW was considered an armaments company. The BMW facilities in Munich and Allach were to be demolished, according to an order from the US military administration in October 1945. As a result, BMW lost the ability to dispose of its assets until 1949; in the case of Allach, this loss of control continued until 1955. At the Munich-Milbertshofen plant, many intact machines were disassembled and exported worldwide as reparations.

In March 1948, the R 24 motorbike, an improved version of the pre-war R 23 model, was released and was the first BMW vehicle to enter production after 1945. The R 24’s sales success was far above all predictions, with 9,144 units sold in 1949 alone. Moreover, the 501, manufactured by BMW in 1952, was the company’s first post-war car. It had a sizable saloon that could accommodate up to six passengers. It was powered by an improved version of the pre-war BMW 326’s six-cylinder engine. Although the BMW 501 was not initially a commercial success as a luxury vehicle. Still, it did restore BMW’s reputation as a producer of excellent, innovative vehicles.

1960’s to 1970 The Reestablishment of BMW 

BMW 502

During the 1961 Frankfurt Motor Show, BMW unveiled the 1500 model, which filled a market void. This model helped to reestablish BMW as a prosperous, cutting-edge automaker. Orders for the four-door, small, sporty middle-class sedan far outpace available supply due to its appealing design.

Meanwhile, the capacity of the BMW Plant in Munich was reached in the middle of the 1960s. The crisis-ridden automobile firm Hans Glas GmbH and its premises in Dingolfing and Landshut were purchased by BMW after the company first developed plans to develop additional facilities. In the next decades, both locations underwent structural changes. Dingolfing was home to the largest BMW plant ever built, at least for a while.

In honor of its largest shareholder Herbert Quandt’s 60th birthday, BMW AG established the Herbert Quandt Foundation. It has grown into a foundation with a solid reputation abroad as a supporter of knowledge and experience exchanges across the Atlantic. The foundation played a significant role in fostering understanding between East and West as well as within a larger Europe after the conclusion of the Cold War.

Additionally, the establishment of BMW Kredit GmbH as a new BMW subsidiary was done to finance internal business operations and, most crucially, dealership financing. The new company established the groundwork for the expanding financing and leasing industry, which is still a key factor in the company’s current success. Over the years, BMW Motorsport GmbH, a new wholly owned company, has earned innumerable motorsports victories for BMW while also assisting in the development of exceptionally sporty BMW automobiles. In 1972, BMW consolidated all its various motor racing activities inside a new wholly owned subsidiary.

BMW started constructing an office tower block in Munich’s northern suburbs in 1970. It quickly earned the nickname “four-cylinder building” due to its peculiar shape. It rose to prominence among the city’s architectural landmarks. The BMW Museum was erected adjacent to it in a structure with a bowl-like design that is still unique today. On May 18, 1973, the new construction complex was formally inaugurated. BMW AG and Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG formed BMW Steyr Motoren Gesellschaft as a joint venture. BMW took sole ownership of the facility in 1982 and changed its name to BMW Motoren GmbH, Steyr.

1985’s to 1999 The Years of Research and Innovation

The establishment of BMW Technik GmbH frees it from the limitations of series development. Away from the humdrum of daily operations, some of the top BMW designers, engineers, and technicians are employed to create concepts and ideas for the BMW automobiles of the Future. The Z1 Roadster, which went into series production in 1988, was one of the first significant projects for BMW Technik GmbH. 

On November 26, 1982, it was decided to construct a new facility in Regensburg to accommodate the rising demand for the BMW 3 Series model and ease the strain on the Munich-based BMW plant. The Regensburg facility opened its doors in 1987 after the foundation stone was set in the nearby hamlet of Obertraubling in 1984. Over the ensuing years, there was more expansion.

In 1986, BMW AG established the Forschungs- und Innovationszentrum in Munich as a central location for all research and development activities. With some 7,000 scientists, engineers, designers, managers, and technicians working as a cohesive team, it became the first automaker to build such an institution. 

In 1989, BMW decided to construct a car manufacturing unit in the USA. This action emphasized its status as a major participant on the world stage. In 1994, the Spartanburg, South Carolina, factory debuted. It was built specifically to produce the BMW Z3 Roadster. The Board of Management decided to buy the Rover Group in the UK at the beginning of 1994, with the Supervisory Board’s support, to broaden its model lineup. The enormous expectations could not be met despite many efforts. Therefore, BMW AG decided to sell the Rover Group in 2000 as circumstances worsened.

BMW bought a piece of automotive history in July 1998. Following protracted negotiations, the business finally secured the brand and naming rights for Rolls-Royce plc from Rolls-Royce automobiles. Up until the end of 2002, Volkswagen maintained sole ownership of Rolls-Royce. Then, all ownership and rights were transferred to BMW. 

At the Detroit Auto Show on January 10, 1999, a brand-new car idea was revealed to the public for the first time. The BMW X5 revolutionized the off-road vehicle market by giving drivers an unheard-of combination of all-wheel drive off-road prowess, trademark BMW characteristics, and athletic prowess.

2000 to Present BMW for the Future

The BMW Group has spent the first decade of the new century concentrating on growth, reinvention, and longevity after barely escaping one of the most turbulent centuries in European history. As BMW constructed not one but three new manufacturing facilities in the 2000s, the movement toward a completely worldwide presence proceeded.

The Eberhard von Kuenheim Foundation was created in 2000 to commemorate Eberhard v. Kuenheim, who greatly contributed to the growth of BMW AG for nearly 30 years. He oversaw BMW AG’s transformation from a conventional vehicle and motorcycle manufacturer to a prestigious international brand. Beyond business, the foundation aims to promote entrepreneurial behavior and thought. The Eberhard von Kuenheim Foundation creates and evaluates new model solutions to current societal concerns in sustainability, employment, and education under the motto “freude am neu:wagen.”

BMW and a Chinese partner established BMW Brilliance Automotive Ltd in 2003 to manage BMW car manufacture, sales, and customer service in the People’s Republic of China. The following May, the Dadong facility in Shenyang began producing cars solely for the regional market. A second factory, called Plant Tiexi, debuted in Shenyang in 2012. BMW Plant Leipzig had its grand opening in May 2005. 

In October 2007, the BMW Welt debuted west of the BMW Tower. The cutting-edge structure created by Austrian architects Coop Himmelb(l)au acts as both the brand’s entryway and the location where BMW cars are delivered. The BMW Welt and the BMW Museum provide a comprehensive experience that showcases the background, current state, and plans of the BMW company.

The BMW Group adopted Strategy Number ONE in the fall of 2007 and its four pillars—Growth, Shaping the Future, Profitability, and Access to Technology and Customers—in the same month. It brings the BMW Group’s two goals—profitability and enhancing long-term value in times of change—into alignment. The company’s goal for the next five years is to become the premier supplier of high-end goods and services for individual mobility.

An entirely new age of electric mobility has begun for the BMW Group. The first all-electric series-production model from the BMW Group was introduced with the BMW i3, the first model under the new BMW I brand. This vehicle offers a captivating driving experience of its agility and sheer fun. It is propelled by an electric engine, making it completely emission-free. Never has sustainability been so exciting.


Over the past 100 years, BMW has changed from being a struggling maker of aviation engines to one of the most sought-after luxury car brands worldwide. The business has survived some of the most difficult periods in European history. It has come out on top as a solid, reliable ambassador for top-notch German engineering and design. BMW has undergone significant change as it evolved from a firm with just one modest production plant close to Munich to a multinational corporation with 30 production locations spread across 14 nations and four continents.

BMW has demonstrated that diversity is one of the finest strategies for overcoming hardship, and they will carry this philosophy into the Future. Through the 20th century, BMW experienced both good and bad times. However, the group’s erratic origins and constant drive for betterment have propelled it into the twenty-first century as one of the top luxury vehicle manufacturers globally.

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