This German automaker was founded in 1917, and originally specialized in manufacturing aircraft. When the armistice was signed in 1919, they were forced to abandon military construction and instead focused on making motorcycles and automobiles. BMW also owns and produces the Mini brand, and is the parent company of Rolls-Royce. Throughout the Second World War, BMW manufactured planes for the Luftwaffe. Under this they developed the world’s first mass production jet fighters, which saw only limited use during the war.
In October 1945 the US military orders the dismantling of the BMW plants in Munich and Allach. Depriving BMW of its control over its plants and production abilities. During the disassembly process, all machinery that was not damaged during the invasion of Allied troops was sent off as part of the German Government’s war reparations. US control lasts from 1949 – 1955, and during that time there is almost no activity for BMW. Again at the end of the war, not only were BMWs restricted form manufacturing airplanes, they were not allowed to manufacture at all, with previous models being manufactured by British car makers. Although by 1948 they had begun small production, and by 1949 produced its first motorcycle and presented the new development in New York. The 1950s marked the automakers return to producing luxury automobiles and by 1955 they had re-established their brand and their spot in the market place. The successfully resisted a buyout option from Mercedes. By 1959 BMW had also firmly re-established control over its stock and was able to make the company profitable again.
The 1970s saw BMW create its motorsport division in order to support its racing cars, but would eventually lead to the production of some of the fastest motor vehicles on the road available to the public. They also began to develop some of the most innovative features that have become standard in many cars today such as the Digital Motor Electronics (DME): a microcomputer synchronizes ignition and fuel injection for fuel savings, lower emissions and better engine performance.
The 1980s and 90s saw and expansion of their E series, and the return to Formula 1 racing. They also enjoyed their best sales in their motorcycle division.
BMW is known the world over as a high quality luxury car producer, but they are also one of the most innovative design firms in the world. Using specialized techniques and developments they have secured themselves as one of the highest quality engineering firms on the planet. BMW uses and induction method to attract paint to the metal, rather than use a spray like many American car manufactures do. Their manufacturing plant is one of the most advanced in the world. Their headquarters are now located in Munich, Germany.
Chief designer Chris Bangle announced his departure from BMW in February 2009, after serving on the design team for nearly seventeen years. He was replaced by Adrian van Hooydonk, Bangle’s former right hand man.
Its well-known symbol is said to represent a propeller cutting through the air, the blue representing the sky and the white the propeller, which reminds us all of the company’s history every time we look at it.
At a glance
Founded by: Franz Josef Popp
Headquarters: Munich, Germany
Key people: Norbert Reithofer (CEO), Joachim Milberg (Chairman of the supervisory board)
Revenue €50.68 billion
Profit €204 million
Subsidiaries Rolls-Royce Motor Cars