Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) is a German automobile and motorcycle
manufacturing company. Founded in 1916, it is known for its performance
and luxury vehicles. It owns and produces the MINI brand, and is
the parent company of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
After World War I, BMW was forced to cease aircraft (engine) production
by the terms of the Versailles Armistice Treaty. The company consequently
shifted to motorcycle production in 1923 once the restrictions
of the treaty started to be lifted, followed by automobiles in
The circular blue and white BMW logo or roundel is often alleged
to portray the movement of an airplane propeller, to signify the
white blades cutting through the blue sky - an interpretation
that BMW adopted for convenience in 1929, which was actually twelve
years after the roundel was created. In fact, the emblem evolved
from the circular Rapp Motorenwerke company logo, from which the
BMW company grew. The Rapp logo was combined with the blue and
white colors of the flag of Bavaria to produce the BMW roundel
so familiar today.
BMW's first significant aircraft engine was the BMW IIIa inline-six
liquid-cooled engine of 1918, much preferred for its high-altitude
performance. With German rearmament in the 1930s, the company
again began producing aircraft engines for the Luftwaffe. Among
its successful WWII engine designs were the BMW 132 and BMW 801
air-cooled radial engines, and the pioneering BMW 003 axial-flow
turbojet, which powered the tiny, 1944-45-era jet-powered "emergency
fighter", the Heinkel He 162 Salamander, and was tested in
the A-1b version of the world's first jet fighter, the Messerschmitt
By 1959 the automotive division of BMW was in financial difficulties
and a shareholders meeting was held to decide whether to go into
liquidation or find a way of carrying on. It was decided to carry
on and to try to cash in on the current economy car boom enjoyed
so successfully by some of Germany's ex-aircraft manufacturers
such as Messerschmitt and Heinkel. Therefore the rights to manufacture
the tiny Italian Iso Isetta were bought using a modified form
of BMW's own motorcycle engine. This was moderately successful
and helped the company get back on its feet. The dominating shareholder
of the BMW Aktiengesellschaft since 1959 is the Quandt family,
which owns about 46% of the stock. The rest is in public float.
In 1992, BMW acquired a large stake in Californian-based industrial
design studio DesignworksUSA, which the fully acquired in 1995.
In 1994, BMW bought the British Rover Group (which at the time
consisted of the Rover, Land Rover and MG brands as well as the
rights to defunct brands including Austin and Morris), and owned
it for six years. By 2000, Rover was making huge losses and BMW
decided to sell the combine. The MG and Rover brands were sold
to the Phoenix Consortium to form MG Rover, while Land Rover was
taken over by Ford. BMW, meanwhile, retained the rights to build
the new MINI, which was launched in 2001.
Chief designer Chris Bangle announced his departure from BMW after
serving on the design team for nearly seventeen years. He will
be replaced by Adrian van Hooydonk, Bangle's former right hand
man. Bangle was famously (or infamously) known for his radical
designs such as the 2002 7-Series and the 2002 Z4.
Large-scale production models
Main article: BMW New Class
The New Class (German: Neue Klasse) was a line of compact sedans
and coupes starting with the 1962 1500 and continuing through
the last 2002s in 1977.
Powered by BMW's celebrated four-cylinder M10 engine, the New
Class models featured a fully independent suspension, MacPherson
struts in front, and front disc brakes. Initially a family of
four-door sedans and two-door coupes, the New Class line was broadened
to two-door sports sedans with the addition of the 02 Series 1600
and 2002 in 1966.
Sharing little in common with the rest the line beyond power train,
the sporty siblings caught auto enthusiasts' attention and established
BMW as an international brand. Precursors to the famed BMW 3 Series,
the two-doors' success cemented the firm's future as an upper
tier performance car maker.
New Class four-doors with numbers ending in "0" were
replaced by the larger BMW 5 Series in 1972. The upscale 2000C
and 2000CS coupes were replaced by the six-cylinder BMW E9, introduced
in 1969 with the 2800CS. The 1600 two-door was discontinued in
1975, the 2002 replaced by the 320i in 1975.
The 1 Series was launched globally in Autumn 2004 and shares many
structural, chassis, powertrain, hardware and electronic elements
with the larger 3 Series. The model was started to provide a lower
point of entry into the BMW range as the 3 Series moved gradually
up-market. Initially launched as a 5-door hatchback, a 3-door
version was also launched in July 2007. The 1 Series is priced
between the MINI and the current E90 3 Series. Because the coupe
is the only rear wheel drive vehicle in its class, it is somewhat
considered the successor to the BMW 2002.
The 1 Series coupe (E81) and convertible (E88) went on sale in
the United States in model year 2008 as the 128i and the 135i.
Other countries received the 120i and 125i in both platforms.
The convertible, unlike the 3 Series convertible, uses a soft-top
instead of a folding hardtop. This is lighter, cheaper to manufacture
and preserves more trunk space than the folding hardtop would
The 1 Series is the only car in its class to offer rear wheel
drive, perfect (50:50) weight distribution and highly advanced
independent aluminum suspension.
The BMW 3 Series is an compact executive car manufactured since
model year 1975. The 3 Series is currently in its fifth generation,
the E90 Current models include the sport sedan (E90), station
wagon (E91), coupe (E92), and convertible (E93). Since its first
generation, the 3-Series is considered to be the benchmark, and
the 3-Series' competitors are often judged on how close they come
to this car. In some countries, it has even outsold significantly
cheaper models, most notably Ford Mondeo in the UK.
The 3 series is one of BMW's most important models, as it accounts
for a majority of its worldwide sales.
A mid-size executive car. For model year 2008, BMW has revised
the 5 Series with a slightly redesigned interior, subtle exterior
details, and new motor options.
- The M5 is the Motorsport division's version of the 5 Series.
The new M5 (built on the E60 5 series chassis) is powered by a
F1-inspired V10 engine, producing 507 hp (378 kW) and is mated
with a 7-speed sequential manual gearbox (SMG) transmission, which
is capable of a top speed of about 330 km/h (production variants
are restricted to 250 km/h, or 155 mph). BMW has also recently
added a 6-speed manual transmission for 2007 and newer models.
The 6 Series is BMW's grand touring luxury sport coupe, based
on the 5 Series' platform. Currently available as the 650i in
coupe (E63) and convertible (E64) models in the United States,
elsewhere available in a diesel and petrol straight-6 option -
630i & 635d. The BMW 6 Series returned in 2004 after a 15-year
absence from BMW's model lineup.
M6: A high performance version of the 6 Series. Developed by BMW's
M Division, it is powered by the same 5.0 L V10 507 hp (378 kW)
engine seen in the BMW M5. It is currently available in Russia,
Europe, North America, South America, Australia and South Africa.
BMW's full-size flagship executive sedan. Typically, BMW introduces
many of their innovations first in the 7 Series. For example,
the somewhat controversial iDrive system debuted in the 7 Series.
The 7 Series Hydrogen, featuring one of the world's first hydrogen
fueled electric engines, is fueled by liquid hydrogen and emits
only water vapor. Since the infrastructure for refueling a hydrogen
fueled engine is not widely available, the V12 engine also runs
on gasoline. Numerous engines power the 7 Series worldwide. BMW
offers diesel, straight 6, V8 and V12 motors, as well as the Alpina
tuned supercharged V8. It is also available in a bulletproof version.