BMW AG (an abbreviation for Bayerische Motoren Werke, or in English, Bavarian Motor Works), is a German company and manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles. BMW is the parent company of the Mini and Rolls-Royce car brands, and, formerly, Rover.
In German, the acronym is pronounced "bay-em-vay". In North America and some other regions, BMW cars are referred to as "bimmers," while BMW motorcycles are called "beemers," although the terms are often used interchangeably.
Table of contents
BMW was founded by Karl Friedrich Rapp in October 1913, originally as an aircraft engine manufacturer, Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke. The Milbertshofen district of Munich location was chosen because it was close to the Gustav Otto Flugmaschinenfabrik site, a German aircraft manufacturer.
In 1916 the company secured a contract to build V12 engines for Austria-Hungary. Needing extra financing, Rapp gained the support of Camillo Castiglioni and Max Friz, the company was reconstituted as the Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH. Over-expansion caused difficulties; Rapp left and the company was taken over by the Austrian industrialist Franz Josef Popp in 1917, and named BMW AG in 1918.
In 1927 the tiny Dixi, an Austin Seven produced under licence, began production in Eisenach. BMW bought the company the following year, and this became the company's first car, the BMW 3/15. By 1933 BMW were producing cars that could be called truly theirs, offering steadily more advanced inline 6-cylinder sports and saloon cars. The pre-war cars culminated in the beautiful 327 saloon and 328 roadster, fast 2-litre cars, both very advanced for their time
BMW was a major supplier of engines to the Luftwaffe and of engines and vehicles, especially motorcyles, to the Wehrmacht. The aero-engines included the 801, one of the most powerful available. Over 30,000 were manufactured up to 1945. BMW also researched jet engines, producing the BMW 003, and rocket based weapons. BMW has admitted to using between 25,000 and 30,000 slave laborers during this period, consisting of both inmates of infamous concentration camps such as Dachau and prisoners of war.
The BMW works were heavily bombed towards the end of the war. Of its sites, those in eastern Germany (Eisenach, Dürrerhof, Basdorf and Zühlsdorf) were seized by the Soviets. The factory in Munich was largely destroyed.
Aftermath of WWII
In the east, the company's factory at Eisenach was taken over by the state-owned Awtowelo group. That company offered "BMWs" for sale until 1951, when the Bavarian company prevented use of the trademarks: the name, the logo and the "double-kidney" radiator grille.
In the west, the BAC, Bristol Aeroplane Company, inspected the factory, and returned to Britain with plans for the 326, 327 and 328 models. These plans, which became official war reparations, along with BMW engineer Fritz Fiedler allowed the newly formed Bristol Cars to produce a new, high-quality sports saloon, the 400 by 1947, a car so similar to the BMW 327 that it even kept the famous BMW grille.
In 1952, BMW produced its first passenger car since the war but its attempts to get into the premium sector were not commercially successful. By the late 1950s, it was making bubble cars such as the Isetta. In 1959, BMW planned to merge with Daimler-Benz but board chairman Kurt Golda convinced majority shareholder Herbert Quandt to think otherwise.
That same year, BMW launched the 700, a small car with an air-cooled, rear-mounted 697 cubic cm boxer engine from the R67 motorcycle. Its bodywork was designed by Giovanni Michelotti and the 2+2 model had a sporty look. There was also a more powerful RS model for racing. Competition successes in the 700 began to secure BMW's reputation for sports sedans.
At the Frankfurt show in 1961, BMW launched the 1500, a powerful compact sedan, with front disc brakes and four-wheel independent suspension. This modern specification further cemented BMW's reputation for sporting cars. It was the first BMW to officially feature the "Hofmeister kink", the rear window line that has been the hallmark of all BMWs since then.
The "New Class" 1500 was developed into 1600 and 1800 models. In 1966, the two-door version of the 1600 was launched, along with a convertible in 1967. These models were called the '02' seriesthe 2002 being the most famousand began the bloodline that later developed into the BMW 3 Series.
By the 1970s, BMW was commercially successful and in December 1971, moved in to its present HQ in Munich, architecturally modelled after four cylinders.
In 1972, the 5 Series was launched to replace the New Class sedans, with a body styled by Marcello Gandini. The New Class coupes were replaced by the 3 Series in 1975, and the New Six became the 7 Series in 1977. Thus the three-tier sports sedan range was formed, and BMW essentially followed this formula into the 1990s. Other cars, like the 6 Series coupés that replaced the CS and the M1, were also added to the mix as the market demanded.
"The English Patient"
Between 1994 and 2000, under the leadership of Bernd Pischetsrieder, BMW owned the Rover Group in an attempt to get into mass market production, buying it from British Aerospace. This brought the Rover passenger car range, the Mini, Land Rover and Range Rover, plus historical names such as Triumph, into BMW ownership.
The venture was not successful. For years, Rover tried to rival BMW, if not in product, then in market positioning and "snob appeal". BMW found it difficult to reposition the English automaker alongside its own products and the Rover division was faced with endless changes in its marketing strategy. In the six years under BMW, Rover was positioned as a premium automaker, a mass-market automaker, a division of BMW and an independent unit.
In 2000, BMW disposed of Rover after years of losses, with Rover cars going to the Phoenix Consortium for a nominal £10 and Land Rover and Range Rover going to the Ford Motor Company. In the press, Rover and the English work ethic were mainly blamed for the debacle. The German press ridiculed the English firm as "The English Patient", named for a recent film, though BMW itself, protected by its product range's image, was largely spared the blame — even though there were serious marketing issues that brought Rover down. Even the British press was not particularly sympathetic toward Rover.
BMW held on to the Mini and Triumph marques.
In the early part of the 2000s, BMW undertook another of its periodic cycles of redoing the styling design of its various series of vehicles, under the auspices of newly promoted design chief Christopher Bangle. These designs, which were much curvier and 'swoopier' — a design cue called "flame surfacing" by Bangle — did not rest well at all with BMW enthusiasts or the automotive press which referred to the new designs as "Bangled" or "Bangle-ized". While Bangle did not pen all of these designs, and has indeed been promoted within the company, some question what long term effect the disaffection of BMW traditionalists for these designs will have on sales, and on the company's future.
What is not well known, however is that Bangle was indeed responsible for many 'conservative' BMW designs and has worked at BMW for almost a decade. The first X5 sketches (which highly resembled the production car), were designed by him, and under his tenure the E46 came to be.
Production outside Germany
The Spartanburg plant is open six days a week, producing automobiles approximately 110 hours a week. It employs about 4,700 people and manufactures over 500 vehicles daily.
After a period of local assembly, BMW's Rosslyn, South Africa plant now manufactures cars, with over 70 per cent of its output destined for export. In the mid-1990s, BMW invested R1 billion to make Rosslyn a world-class facility. The plant now exports over 50,000 3 Series cars a year, mostly to the USA, Japan, Australia, Africa and the Middle East.
Starting from October 2003, BMWs are produced in Shenyang, China. BMW has established a joint venture with Chinese manufacturer Brilliance to build BMW 3 Series and 5 Series vehicles for the local market.
In 1998, both BMW and Volkswagen tried to purchase Rolls-Royce Motors. Volkswagen bought the company for £430 million, but BMW outflanked its German rival by acquiring the Rolls-Royce trademark for cars for a fraction of the price (£40 million).
Volkswagen was permitted to build Rolls-Royces at its Crewe factory until 2003 but shifted most of its marketing emphasis to Bentley.
In the meantime, BMW was faced with the need to build a new factory and develop a new model. The new factory at Goodwood produced the new Rolls-Royce Phantom, unveiled on January 2, 2003, and officially launched at the Detroit Auto Show on January 5, 2003.
Current and near future products
The current BMW model line-up is split into what they call "Series", traditionally identified by a single digit – e.g. the 3 Series.
In 2004 BMW announced plans to make odd-numbered models sedans and estates or wagons (BMW calls its estates/wagons Touring models), while even-numbered models will be two-door coupes and cabriolets. This convention started informally in 1976 with the introduction of the 6 Series and later continued in 1989 with the 8 Series, but died off when the latter was discontinued in 1999. This practice was revived as the Z4 replaced the aging Z3 roadster in 2003 and continues as the new 6 Series augments the existing BMW 5 Series.
Coupe versions of the 3 Series sedans have always been named 3 Series vehicles, as well. The company had considered renaming future 2-door derivatives of the 3 Series as 4 Series cars, but this plan has reportedly been shelved.
The M letter was used prior to the shift to Series-named cars to designate special "Motorsport" models, beginning with the M1 supercar. Later the M letter was used as a prefix to top-of-the-range models which had received special treatment by the BMW Motorsport division. The first such car was the M535i of 1979. As these models started gaining popularity the Motorsport division was split into a separate company. BMW M GmbH now makes sporty models based on the production cars with very extensive chassis and engine upgrades. The M3 and M5 are based respectively on the 3 and 5 Series and are recognised by enthusiasts all over the world as truly excellent sports cars while retaining the practicality of the models they extend.
With the advent of the SUV, BMW also added the X5 – and in 2004 the X3 – to their model range to capitalise on this growing market. BMW calls its SUV models Sports Activity Vehicles. A possible future V Series will offer MPV practicality for large families, similar to the Renault Scenic.
- 1 Series: a new, small car designed to compete with the VW Golf, coming in the fall of 2004 in Europe;Fall 2006 in the USA
- 2 Series: a coupe/convertible based on the 1 Series platform
- 3 Series: the successor to the 2002; a compact, entry-level, luxury sedan, now in its fourth generation (E46). The fifth generation (E90) is scheduled to arrive in dealerships across Europe in early 2005.
- 5 Series: a mid-size sports/luxury sedan
- 6 Series: a large 2+2 grand touring car, available as a coupe or convertible.
- M6: A high performance version of the 6 Series. Developed by BMW's M Division, it powered by the same 5.0 L V10 507BHP engine seen in the BMW M5.
- 7 Series: a full-size, executive-class, luxury car competing with the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, and Jaguar XJ
Out of production
- M1: a 1970s mid-engine sports car, designed in conjunction with Lamborghini
- Z3: a compact two-seater roadster.
- M coupé and roadster: high-performance hard-top and soft-top versions of the Z3, very popular with enthusiasts
- 8 Series: a fast, high-technology coupe of the 1990s meant to replace the older 6 Series.
- Z1: a late 1980s two-seater with innovative modular construction; only 8,000 were made.
- Z8: flagship sports car; design based on the classic 507 roadster from the 1950s. Only 5000 were built, the last 500 being a special edition built by Alpina but sold directly from BMW.
BMW made many cars over the years which had great impact on the world of motoring.
- Dixi, 3/20, 303, 309, 315, 319, 320, 321, 325, 326, 327, 328, 329, 335
- Isetta, 501, 502, 503, 507, 600, 700
- 3200 CS, 2000 CS
- New Sixes (2500/2800/Bavaria/2.5/2.8/3.0/3.3) – Predecessor to today's 7 Series
- New Class (1500/1502/1600/1800/1802/2000/2002) – Acknowledged as the first modern sports saloon and the predecessor to BMW's core product, the 3 Series
Internally, BMW associates an "e-code" for each generation of a series ("E" stands for Entwicklung, German for development or evolution). These "chassis codes" only change to signify a major redesign of a series, or the introduction of a new series.
- BMW E3 – (1968–1977) 2.5, 2.8, 3.0, 3.3 "New Six" sedans
- BMW E9 – (1969–1975) 2800CS, 3.0CS, 3.0CSL "New Six" coupés
- BMW E12 – (1972–1981) 5 Series
- BMW E21 – (1975–1985) 3 Series
- BMW E23 – (1977–1986) 7 Series
- BMW E24 – (1976–1989) 6 Series
- BMW E26 – (1978–1981) M1
- BMW E28 – (1981–1988) 5 Series
- BMW E30 – (1983–1993) 3 Series
- BMW E31 – (1990–1999) 8 Series
- BMW E32 – (1986–1994) 7 Series
- BMW E34 – (1988–1995) 5 Series
- BMW E36 – (1990–1999) 3 Series/Z3 (as E36/7)
- BMW E38 – (1994–2001) 7 Series
- BMW E39 – (1997–2003) 5 Series
- BMW E46 – (1998–2005) 3 Series
- BMW E52 – (2000–2004) Z8
- BMW E53 – (2000-present) X5
- BMW E60 – (2004-present) 5 Series
- BMW E63 – (2004-present) 6 Series coupe
- BMW E64 – (2004-present) 6 Series convertible
- BMW E65 – (2002-present) 7 Series short wheel base
- BMW E66 – (2002-present) 7 Series long wheel base
- BMW E70 – future X5
- BMW E83 – (2004-present) X3
- BMW E85 – (2003-present) Z4
- BMW E87 – (2004-present) 1 Series
- BMW E90 – (2005-present) 3 Series
- Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited: currently owned by BMW
- Rover: briefly owned by BMW, which retained the Mini after selling off the rest of the company (see MG Rover Group).
- Land Rover: sold to Ford; the current Range Rover was developed mostly by BMW during their ownership of the company and is powered by their 4.4 L V8 engine.
- Mini: a small hatchback; inspired by the 1960s Mini, which was the British equivalent of the Beetle.
BMW has been engaged in motorsport activities since the dawn of the first BMW motorcycle. BMW has competed and won many of the most coveted and prestigious races and motoring events.
- Brabham Racing Organisation
- Team McLaren
- Touring car racing
- Le Mans 24 Hours
- Mille Miglia
- Paris Dakar Rally
The R series currently designates machines with a boxer-twin engine, the K series has an inline 3 or 4-cylinder engine, and the F series has a single cylinder Rotax engine.
During WW2 BMW produced the BMW R75 motorcycle with a sidecar attached. Unusually, the sidecar's wheel was also driven. Combined with a lockable differential, this made the vehicle very capable off-road, an equivalent in many ways to the Jeep.
BMW motorcycles tend to be relatively large and heavy, and relaxed and comfortable to ride. All BMW motorcycles except for the F series use shaft drive. (A characteristic of BMW motorcycles since 1923).
BMW updated the traditional R design in 1993 by adding oil cooling and 4 valves per cylinder. These newer R models are referred to as oilheads. Older Rs are called airheads.
In 2004, BMW introduced the new K1200S Sports Bike which marked a departure for BMW. It is both powerful (the engine is a 167bhp unit derived from the company's work with the Williams F1 team) and significantly lighter than previous K models. It was BMW's latest attempt to keep up with the pace of development of sports machines from the likes of Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki.
BMW was one of the earliest manufacturers to offer ABS on production motorcycles. BMW is an innovator in motorcycle suspension design. Most modern examples use single-sided rear swingarms. Their trademark front suspension design, called the telelever, was first seen in the early 1990s. The telelever significantly reduces dive under braking.
- List of automobile manufacturers
- List of Formula One constructors
- BMW films
- List of BMW engines
- BMW Headquarters
The old style Twins ran out of production in 1993 – The final bike was called the R100R Classic. A naked bike, Black, spoke wheels, chrome ring around the head lamp.
Official corporate websites
- BMW Group is the holding company for BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce.
- BMW International is the corporate website of BMW AG.
- BMW History at bmw.com
- MINI International is the corporate website of the BMW-owned Mini marque.
Club and information websites
- BMW Do It Yourself provides BMW DIY articles for the home mechanic.
- BMW Gallery hosts images of BMWs.
- BMW Models provides information on past, current, upcoming, and concept BMWs.
- The BMW Portal
- The BMW club is a website for BMW owners in the UK and Ireland.
- BMW Car Club of America is a club for BMW owners in the Americas.
- BMW @ CarDomain provides pictures of BMWs from owners.
- BMW Car Club of Great Britain
- BMW Forums
- BMW Museums provides information about museums where BMWs can be found.
|Road car timeline, 1960s-present (edit)|
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