BMW can trace its roots back to March 7, 1916, when Bayerische Motoren Werke was formed as BFW (Bayerische Flugzeugwerke), a company that primarily made airplane engines.
BMW relocated their production facility to the Oberwiesenfeld airfield near Munich in 1922, and the production facility would eventually become the headquarters for the entire BMW group. Today the Munich headquarters manufacture more than 200,000 cars every year and employ more than 9,000 employees.
In 1923, BMW expanded from manufacturing airplane engines to motorcycles. Their first motorcycle was called the R32, and the engine was so efficient that it’s still used today in modern day BMW motorcycles.
The First Cars
But what about automobiles? BMW became a manufacturer in 1928 by purchasing Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, the third largest automobile manufacturer located in Germany at the time. The first car was built in 1929, and after surviving the war, the company began to thrive.
In 1951, BMW produced the 501 — its first automobile since the outbreak of the war. It was known for its large interior and the fact that it could comfortably sit six people. By 1954, the BMW 502 V8 super made its debut, which allowed the company to enhance its reputation worldwide. When BMW introduced a muscle 507 car in 1956, it became the company’s largest money earner at that time.
Over the next 90+ years, the company would go on to redefine an entire segment of the automotive market. It would dominate racetracks, set records for speed and altitude, and build its very own Lamborghini.
Coming to America
BMW finally moved some production to the United States in 1994, building a plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina. This allowed them to not only expand their global operations, but also manufacture vehicles much closer to their largest consumer. It was in 1994 that BMW also acquired the British-based Rover Group, and in 1998 BMW purchased the Rolls-Royce group.
Not a bad looking résumé for an auto manufacturer who started by building airplane engines.