Die Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (Bavarian Motor Works), based in Munich, Germany, is the leading auto exporter in Europe. The emblem of the blue and white sections symbolize the sky, seen through moving propeller blades.
In 1913 a Bavarian by the name of Karl Rapp started an aircraft-engine factory. By 1917, Rapp realized that he had expanded too quickly and resigned the company to be lead by Austrian Franz-Josef Popp and changed the name to Bayerische Motoren Werke. That same year the company built their first airplane engine, the six-cylinder Typ IIIa. But in 1919, the Treaty of Versailles prevented German companies from manufacturing aircrafts or anything to do with them, including engines. BMW started designing brakes for trains. By 1923, BMW was starting to get into the automobile business when their first motorcycle, the R23 was developed. In 1928, BMW fully entered the automobile industry when they acquired Fahrzeugwerke Eisenach which previously manufactured small cars. BMW started producing larger touring cars and sport cars in the 1930's. By 1936 they had developed a widely popular model 328 sports car.
After WW II BMW encountered some problems as four out of their five production facilities had been dismantled by Allied forces. The remaining factory was in Munich and had been heavily bombed. Sanctions prevented BMW from producing anything for an additional three years after the war. BMW made kitchen and garden equipment before introducing a cheap motor cycle in 1948. In 1951, the 501 and 502 motors were produced but lead to few sales. These were decent cars but with Germans earning such low wages these cars were of little interest. In the next thirteen years, less than 20,000 cars were sold. By 1955, BMW was in dire need of a money maker as they were in danger of being bought out by their rivals at Mercedes-Benz.1958 BMW Isetta 300 http://www.cqql.net/bmw.htm
A popular Italian scooter manufacturer ISO was producing the Isetta "little Iso," an egg shaped car that opened from the front and balanced on two closely set back wheels and two front ones. In Britain three-wheelers were built - allowing owners less purchase tax. A small bench seat in the front could hold two people and a canvas sunroof provided fresh air and in case of an accident - a place where the driver and passenger could escape. The Isetta was had an air-cooled engine, and designed for city traffic and country roads alike. ISO wanted to focus on sports cars and sold the rights to various companies, one being BMW. In 1956, BMW introduced the Isetta under license, lovingly known as "Das rollende Ei" (the rolling egg). It helped that the Isetta could get 60 mpg in a time when gas was hard to come by, due to the Suez Crisis of 1956. Mini cars were looking to be the automobile of the future. BMW produced about 160,000 Isettas until 1964 when the Mini took over. Although the Isetta was an odd path for BWM to take, it quite possibly saved the company from failure.
Here is a link to a chart of all models produced by BMW up until the 60's, complete with descriptions, some photos, and various other data: http://www.unixnerd.demon.co.uk/history.html
In the 1960's, BMW turned around to focus on sports sedans and compact cars. They had reached a level where they could compete with Mercedes-Benz and other luxury car makers in the U.S. and Europe. The company's U.S. sales peaked in 1986 but soon fell when Toyota and Nissan entered the luxury automobile field. The fall of the Berlin Wall led to a downfall in European car sales in Europe.
BMW went back to their roots in 1990 when they teamed up with British aerospace company Rolls-Royce PLC to develop aircraft engines for business jets. The company also opened their first plant in the United States in South Carolina in 1992.
The Future of BMW
In spring of 2000, BMW put the "car of the future" on the road. Known as the C1, this morphed motorcycle-car is prime for the congested city streets. Equipped with a safety frame, ABS, safety belts, etc the C1 features all the safety a car provides. In fact, in Germany C1 owners don't even need to wear helmets. As a motorbike it is easy to park, and naturally simple to manage in a traffic jam, plus with the windshield and overhead section its prime for all weather conditions.