This year, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (Bavarian Motor Works), celebrates its centenary. That’s 100 years of abbreviation. One hundred years of producing both motorcycles and cars from its headquarters in Munich, a century of creating for itself not just a brand, but an icon of popular culture.
These days, BMW makes bikes under the BMW Motorrad banner, eco-variants with the BMW i sub-brand, produces Minis of various flavours and owns the ‘best cars in the world’ in Rolls Royce. It’s one of the most powerful industrial entities of the modern era, making over two million cars in 2014. It employs nearly 120,000 people, and manages equity of 3,839 (I)billion(I) Euro. It’s a modern MegaCorporation.
It was not always thus. BMW actually started out as an engine builder, primarily for aircraft, and was formed from the bones of the Rapp Motorenwerke Aircraft. After the end of World War One in 1918, when forbidden to produce aircraft motivation by the terms of the Versailles Armistice Treaty, BMW turned to bike production in 1923 and cars some five years later. Indeed, BMW’s adventures as a car manufacturer didn’t begin until later with a car called the 3/15 Dixi in 1929, which was actually a licensed build of an Austin 7 from the UK, pulled from the designs of the Austin Motor Company from Birmingham. So this is more the centenary of BMW the company, than BMW cars.
Since, then? Well, the company has literally gone from strength to strength. Here’s some of our favourites from BMW’s back catalogue, including more than a few you might not be aware of if you think of BMW as a very modern company.
Happy 100th anniversary, BMW. Try not to set off the fire alarm with all those candles…