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BMW, abbreviated for Bayerische Motoren Werke or in English Bavarian Motor Works, is an independent German company and manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles. BMW is the parent company of the MINI and Rolls-Royce car brands, and was the owner of Rover.

The company slogan in English is "The Ultimate Driving Machine".

BMW Headquarters in Munich, Germany.
R32: the first BMW motorcycle
1938 328
1938 328
1954 BMW 502 V8 Super
1954 BMW 502 V8 Super
The characteristic kidneys or nostrils on the grill were first seen on the BMW 303 in the early 1930s. Shown here is a BMW 2002.
The characteristic kidneys or nostrils on the grill were first seen on the BMW 303 in the early 1930s. Shown here is a BMW 2002.


BMW was founded by Karl Friedrich Rapp originally as an engine manufacturer, Rapp Motor. Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH was founded as a successor company to Rapp Motor on July 21, 1917. [1] The Milbertshofen district of Munich was chosen, apparently because it was close to the Gustav Otto Flugmaschinenfabrik site. The blue-and-white roundel BMW logo, which is still used (illustrated above right) alludes to the white and blue checkered flag of Bavaria. It is often said to symbolize a spinning white propeller on a blue-sky background, although this interpretation developed after the logo was already in use. [1]

In 1916 the company secured a contract to build V12 engines for Austro-Daimler. Needing extra financing, Rapp gained the support of Camillo Castiglioni, Cornelius Jagdmann 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. [2]

After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles (1919) prohibited the production of aircraft in Germany. Otto closed his factory and BMW switched to manufacturing railway brakes.[2]

In 1919 BMW designed its first motorcycle engine, used in a model called the Victoria, which was built by a company in Nuremberg. [3]

In 1924 BMW built its first model motorcycle, the R32. This had a 500 cc air-cooled horizontally-opposed engine, a feature that would resonate among their various models for decades to come, albeit with displacement increases and newer technology. The major innovation was the use of a driveshaft instead of a chain to drive the rear wheel. For decades to follow, the shaft-drive boxer engine was the mark of the BMW motorcycle. [3]

In 1927 the tiny Dixi, an Austin Seven produced under licence, began production in Eisenach. BMW bought the Dixi Company the following year, and this became the company's first car, the BMW 3/15. By 1933 BMW was producing cars that could be called truly theirs, offering steadily more advanced I6 sports and saloons (sedans). The pre-war cars culminated in the 327 coupé and convertible, the 328 roadster, fast 2.0 L cars, both very advanced for their time, as well as the upscale 335 luxury sedan.

World War II

BMW motorcycles, specifically the BMW R12 and the BMW R75 combination were used extensively by the Aufklärungsabteilung of German panzer and motorised divisions of the German Army, Waffen SS and Luftwaffe.

BMW was also a major supplier of engines; supplying the Luftwaffe with engines and vehicles, and the Wehrmacht with motorcycles. Planes using the aero-engines included the BMW 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 labourers during this period, consisting of both prisoners of war and inmates of infamous concentration camps such as Dachau [4].

The BMW works were heavily bombed towards the end of the war. Of its sites, those in eastern Germany (Eisenach-Dürrerhof, Wandlitz-Basdorf and Zühlsdorf) were seized by the Soviets. The factory in Munich was largely destroyed [3].

Post-war history

After the war the Munich factory took some time to restart production in any volume. BMW was banned from manufacturing for three years by the Allies and did not produce a motorcycle, the R24, until 1948, and a car model until 1952 [4].

In the east, the company's factory at Eisenach was taken over by the Soviet Awtowelo group which formed finally the Eisenacher Motor-Werke. 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.

The cars and motorcycles were then branded EMW (Eisenacher Motoren-Werke), production continuing until 1955.

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 (sedan), the 400 by 1947, a car so similar to the BMW 327 that it even kept the famous BMW grille.

In 1948 BMW produced its first postwar motorcycle and in 1952 it produced its first passenger car since the war. However, its car models were not commercially successful; models such as the acclaimed BMW 507 and 503 were too expensive to build profitably and were low volume.

By the late 1950s, it was also making bubble-cars such as the Isetta.

In 1959 BMW's management suggested selling the whole concern to Daimler-Benz. Major shareholder, Herbert Quandt was close to agreeing such a deal, but changed his mind at the last minute because of opposition from the workforce and trade unions and advice from the board chairman, Kurt Golda. Instead Quandt increased his share in BMW to 50% against the advice of his bankers, and he was instrumental in turning the company around.

That same year, BMW launched the 700, a small car with an air-cooled, rear-mounted 697 cc 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 Motor 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' series—the 2002 being the most famous—and began the bloodline that later developed into the BMW 3 Series.

By 1963, with the company back on its feet, BMW offered dividends to its shareholders for the first time since before World War II.

By 1966, the Munich plant had reached the limits of its production capacity. Although BMW had initially planned to build an entirely new factory, the company bought the crisis-ridden Hans Glas GmbH with its factories in Dingolfing and Landshut. Both plants were restructured, and in the following decades BMW's largest plant took shape in Dingolfing.

In 1968, BMW launched its large "New Six" sedans, the 2500, 2800, and American Bavaria, and coupés, the 2.5 CS and 2800 CS.

Of major importance to BMW was the arrival of Eberhard von Kuenheim from Daimler-Benz AG. Just 40 years old, he presided over the company's transformation from a national firm with a European-focused reputation into a global brand with international prestige.

Already commercially successful by the mid 60s, in December 1971, BMW moved to the new HQ present in Munich, architecturally modeled after four cylinders.

In 1972, the 5 Series was launched to replace the New Class sedans, with a body styled by Bertone. 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 coupes that replaced the CS and the M1, were also added to the mix as the market demanded.

From 1970 to 1993, under von Kuenheim, turnover increased 18-fold, car production quadrupled and motorcycle production tripled.

"The English Patient" - Rover

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 active Rover, Mini and Land Rover brands as well as rights to many dormant marques such as Austin, Morris, Riley, Triumph and Wolseley under 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.

BMW was more successful with the Mini, MG and Land Rover brands, which did not have parallels in its own range at the time.

In 2000, BMW disposed of Rover after years of losses, with Rover cars going to the Phoenix Venture Holdings for a nominal £10 and Land Rover going to the Ford Motor Company. The German press ridiculed the English firm as "The English Patient", after the film. BMW itself, protected by its product range's image, was largely spared the blame. Even the British press was not particularly sympathetic towards Rover.

BMW retained the rights to Mini, Rover, Triumph and other marques. MINI has been a highly successful business, though the other names have not been used yet. The Rover name has recently been sold to Ford after BMW gave it a first refusal offer in 2000.

 Redesign controversy

In the early 2000s, BMW undertook another of its periodic cycles of redoing the design language of its various series of vehicles, under the auspices of newly promoted design chief Christopher Bangle. These designs often featured unconventional proportions with complex concave and convex curved surfaces combined with (sometimes arbitrary-appearing) sharp panel creases and slashes, a design cue called "flame surfacing" by Bangle. Much of the new language did not rest well with BMW enthusiasts or the automotive press which referred to the new designs as "Bangled" or "Bangle-ized". Bangle is commonly mistakenly believed to have penned all of the designs himself; however, he only chose which design was to be used. As Bangle has now been promoted within the company to the BMW Group Head of Design, leaving him in charge of not only BMW but also Rolls-Royce and Mini, some question what long term effect the disaffection of BMW traditionalists for these designs will have on sales, and on the company's future. Despite this, or maybe because of it, sales at BMW have increased every year since some of his most debated designs have gone into production.

Though many BMW enthusiasts zealously insist that BMW is the world's top selling luxury brand, new research indicates that their sales performance has not been as a result of their ever-growing skills in creating a luxury car. BMW's own in-house research [5] showed that 75% of luxury car buyers do not even consider a BMW, considering it as a yuppie's car. Instead, BMW's research indicates, that BMW owners generally purchase BMW's for the crisp, sporty characteristics for which BMW is famous. As a result of this worrying research, BMW has redoubled marketing efforts to chase the top selling luxury car, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class. [6]

Many aspects of the "controversial" designs are now beginning to surface in other auto manufacturer's designs, most notably Toyota, Audi, and Honda. Though the Bangle-butt design debuted and was popularlised by BMW's 7-Series, Hyundai incorporated this design cue in 1999, three years before the 7-Series was released, and Maybach incorporated it since its first showing in 1997.

What is not as well known, however, is that Bangle was also responsible for many 'conservative' BMW designs and has worked at BMW for almost a decade. The first X5 sketches (which closely resembled the production car), were designed by him, and under his tenure the E46 3 Series came to be. Despite much of the scorn heaped on Chris Bangle, his design selections were approved by the entire executive board of BMW AG, including the majority owners, the Quandt family.

Production outside Germany

BMW started producing automobiles at its Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant in 1994. Today, the plant manufactures the BMW X5, the BMW Z4 Roadster and Coupe, and the BMW Z4 M Roadster and Coupe. The oft-rumored crossover vehicle, the X6, was recently confirmed by the Chairman of BMW's board as being under development for production at Plant Spartanburg.

Outside Germany, the largest output of the BMW Group comes from British factories. The Hams Hall plant manufactures four cylinder BMW engines for use around the world in 3-Series, 1-Series and Z4 vehicles. This is in addition to MINIs and Rolls-Royces made in Oxford and Goodwood.

The Spartanburg, SC 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. Recently, the plant has undergone a major renovation switching from 2 production lines down to one. Now both the X5 and the Z4 are produced in the same line, one right after the other.

After a period of local assembly, BMW's Rosslyn, South Africa, plant now manufactures cars, with over 70% of its output destined for export. In the mid-1990s, BMW invested R1bn 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.

BMW signed agreement in 1999 with Avtotor to produce cars in Kalingrad, Russia. Factory has been assembling 3 and 5 -series cars.[5]

Starting from October 2004, BMWs intended for the Chinese market are produced in Shenyang, China [7]. BMW has established a joint venture with Chinese manufacturer Brilliance to build BMW 3 Series and 5 Series that have been modified for the needs of local markets.

Starting in 2004, the X3 is manufactured in Graz, Austria by Magna Steyr with mainly German components.

In 2005, BMW Group built a new manufacturing facility in Egypt. This plant builds 3 Series, 5 Series, 7 Series, and X3 vehicles for the African and Middle East markets.

BMW opened a production plant in Chennai, India in 2007. This plant produces 3-series and 5-series vehicles. Showrooms are already present in all Indian metropolitan areas.[6]

The BMW Group is considering the establishment of a new plant which will be located either in Volos, Greece or Limasol, Cyprus.These plants will be manufacturing motorcycles as well as the BMW 1 Series and the BMW 3 Series and will be serving the markets of Eastern Europe and Middle East.The construction will start in 2009 even if it is finally built in Greece or in Cyprus.


In the early 1990s, BMW and Rolls-Royce Motors began a joint venture that would see the new Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph and Bentley Arnage adopt BMW engines.

In 1998, both BMW and Volkswagen tried to purchase Rolls-Royce Motors. Volkswagen outbid BMW and bought the company for £430 million, but BMW outflanked its German rival. Although Volkswagen had bought rights to the "Spirit of Ecstasy" mascot and the shape of the radiator grille, it lacked rights to the Rolls-Royce name. Rolls-Royce plc (the aero-engine business) retained the rights over the Rolls-Royce trademark and wished to strengthen its existing business partnership with BMW which extended to the BMW Rolls-Royce joint venture. Consequently, BMW was allowed to acquire the rights to the grille and mascot, and licensed the name and "RR" logo after 2003 for £40 million. Volkswagen was permitted to build Rolls-Royces at its Crewe factory only until 2003, but quickly shifted its emphasis to the Bentley brand.

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. The model, priced around US$330,000, has experienced record sales worldwide of 796 Phantoms sold in 2005.



The current BMW model lineup is split into what they call "Series 2", traditionally identified by a single digit - e.g. the 3 Series.

In 2004 BMW announced plans to make odd-numbered series saloon/sedan and estate/wagon models (BMW calls its estates/wagons Touring models), while even-numbered series will be two-door coupés 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.

There is possibly a chance BMW will release a V3 or V5. The V3 will probably be similar to the 3-Series, X3, and will compete against Mercedes-Benz B-Class. The V5 will probably be similar to the 5-Series & X5, and will compete against Mercedes-Benz R-Class.

Coupé 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 officially 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, M5, and M6 are based respectively on the 3, 5, and 6 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 capitalize on this growing market. BMW calls its SUV models Sports Activity Vehicles. A possible future V Series multi-purpose vehicle will offer practicality for large families, similar to the Mercedes-Benz R-Class.

2006 1 Series
2006 1 Series

1 Series

Main article: BMW 1 Series

The 1 Series is a small family car launched in Autumn 2004 in Europe. It is the only rear wheel drive vehicle in its class. A coupé has been announced for late 2007, and there are concepts for a hatchback and a minivan. Plans to label these variants as 2 Series have reportedly been scrubbed. It shares the same engines with the 318i, 318d, 320i, 320d and 330i.

3 Series

Main article: BMW 3 Series

The 3 Series is BMW's entry-level luxury sedan, now in its fifth generation (E90). The E90 line has been available in the United States and Canada since the 2006 model year. The E90 is currently available in the 318i (detuned 2.0 L I4 engine producing 129 hp), 318d (detuned 2.0 L I4 diesel producing 122 hp), 320i (with 2.0 L I4 producing 150 hp), 320d (with I4 diesel producing 163 hp), 323i (with I6 producing 174 hp), 325i (with a detuned 3.0 L I6 engine producing 215 hp or a 2.5 L I6 producing 218 hp), 330d (3.0l I6 producing 231 hp) and the 330i (with a 3.0 L I6 engine producing 255 hp), as well as the AWD-versions of these two models: 325xi and 330xi. The new BMW 3 Series sedan (E90) and coupé (E92), both of which have recently been released, carry the 328i, 328xi, 335i, and 335xi badging. There will not be a separate "Ci" designation for coupés. The 328i will feature a 3.0 L I6 with 230 hp and 200 lb-ft torque while the new 335i will feature BMW's new 3.0 L I6 twin turbo engine bolsting 300 hp and 300 lb-ft torque. Incidentally, these new turbofans are made by Mitsubishi. As 2006 models, the 3 Series coupé and convertible are only available in the fourth generation E46 body style (with a 2.5 L I6 producing 184 hp for the 325Ci/Cic and a 3.0 L I6 producing 225 hp for the 330Ci/Cic) until the fall of 2006, when the new 2007 model year coupés will be available. Unlike past generations, the 2006/7 3 Series coupés would have its own internal code of E92. Also available is the all wheel drive Touring (estate) model (E91). A special edition 320si that is the production version of the 2006 World Touring Car.

A retractable hard-top cabriolet (E93) was released in 2007, a first for BMW. The E93 is a showcase for BMW's innovative, state-of-the-art technology.

In 2006, the E90 3 Series won the title of "World Car of the Year" and is a candidate for World Car of the Year 2007.

  • M3: the motorsport division's race-inspired version of the 3 Series. It is currently only available in the fourth generation E46 body style and with a 3.2 L engine producing 343 hp. A new revision is expected in 2007 with a 400+ hp V8. The 2007 version is expected to come in the coupé, cabriolet, sedan and a touring body style. The E90 M3 concept debuted at the Geneva Auto Show in March of 2007.
2005 5 Series
2005 5 Series

5 Series

Main article: BMW 5 Series

A mid-size luxury car / executive car. This series is available with different engines: the 525i with the same engine as the 325i, the 530i with the same engine as the 330i, and the 545i with a 4.4 L V8 producing 325 hp. For the 2006 model year, the 545i had been phased out in favour of the 550i, with a 4.8 L V8 producing 360 hp. The 520d with the same engine as the 320d, the 530d with the same engine as the 330d and a high performance 535d with a twin turbo 272 bhp version of the standard 3.0 L I6 diesel.
For 2007, BMW has revised the 5 series with a completely redesigned interior, slightly different bumpers, lights and additional safety features. The engines made available are the two inline 6-cylinder (naturally aspirated and bi-turbo) found in the 528i/xi and 535i/xi, as well as the standard 4.8 L for the 550i.

  • M5: The motorsport division's version of the 5 Series. The new M5 (E60) is powered by a F1-inspired V10 engine, producing 507 hp and is mated with a 7-speed Sequential Manual Gearbox (SMG) transmission, which is capable of a delimited top speed of about 330 KPH (production variants are restricted to 250 KPH, or 155 MPH).
2004 6 Series
2004 6 Series

6 Series

Main article: BMW 6 Series

The 6 Series is currently available in the 650i version with a 4.8 L V8 producing 360 hp and the 630i version with a 3.0l R6 Straight Six engine (it was the first model to use this engine).

  • 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 engine seen in the BMW M5. It is currently available in Europe, America and Australia.
2005 7 Series
2005 7 Series

 7 Series

Main article: BMW 7 Series

A full-size luxury car competing with the world leader, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Audi A8, and Jaguar XJ. The 7 Series comes in the 730i/730Li, 730d/730Ld, 740i/740Li, 750i/750Li with the same engine as their respective 5 Series equivalent, and in the 760i and 760Li, with a 6.0 L V12 producing 438hp. The 760Li is also made in a bulletproof version for clients who need extra protection. BMW plans to offer a car that runs on both petrol and hydrogen (hybrid).

BMW has announced a BMW Hydrogen 7 car for U.S. and Europe in 2007.

2005 X3
2005 X3


Main article: BMW X3

BMW's second SUV (called SAV or Sports Activity Vehicle by BMW) competing against the Mercedes-Benz M-Class and Land Rover LR3. The Volkswagen Touareg falls in the same category, but at a lower prestige. Although marketed in Europe as an off-roader, it lacks the off-road capabilities of Land Rover models.

The X3 is produced in Austria by Magna Steyr.


Main article: BMW X5
2007 E70 BMW X5
2007 E70 BMW X5

The BMW X5 (E53) is a mid-size luxury crossover SUV sold by BMW since 2000. It features all wheel drive and a line of straight-6 and V8 engines. For non-US models there is a 3.0 L diesel engine.

The BMW E70 automobile platform replaced the BMW E53 in November 2006. The E70-based X5 SUV features many new technological advancements including BMW's iDrive system as standard equipment and, for the first time in a BMW, an optional third row seat which has increased the seating capacity in the new X5 to 7 passengers.

2005 Z4
2005 Z4


Main article: BMW Z4

A 2-seater roadster and coupé which succeeded the Z3. For 2006 the Z4 Roadster is available as a 3.0i (3.0 L I6 with 215 hp), a 3.0si available with the new generation 3.0 L I6 with 255 hp, a 2.5si with a 2.5 I6 with 218 bhp or a 2.0i with a 150 bhp 2.0 L I4. The Z4 Coupé is available only in the high-performance 3.0si trim powered by the 3.0 L 255 HP I6.

  • Z4 M The new Z4 M roadster has been released as a Z4 with an E46 M3 motor (3.2 L, 343 hp) and also features the M braking and suspension systems.

 M series

Main article: M series
  • M3
    • The M3 is the smallest M series available with a new V-8 420 hp that can reach 63 m.p.h. in 4.8 seconds. The newest version will be available fall of 2007