BMW started as an engine production company for airplanes, and did so with difficulty. It began as Rapp-Motorenwerke by Karl Friedrich Rapp in 1913. With the dawn of WWI fast approaching, Rapp prudently sold airplane engines to meet the large demands of a coming war. Rapp would eventually partner with Fran-Josef Popp and with Camillo Castiglioni, creating Bayerische Flugzeug-Werke (BFW), which would soon be renamed to BMW.
WWII: Before, During, and Post-War
In the 1920s, BMW history changed as it moved from only producing aircraft engines to complete vehicles, starting with motorcycles. Soon after, BMW purchased Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, one of Germany’s largest automobile manufacturing companies. During WWII, BMW produced war resources for the German military, as the government had taken over the majority of manufacturing plants for the war effort. Following the Allied victory, BMW’s plants were stripped because of their past war production activities, and they were forced to produce many household goods to stay afloat. They managed to recover somewhat with the production of the 501 vehicle, which sold enough for them to manage through the 1950s. In 1959, BMW was nearly purchased by Daimler-Benz, but this acquisition was ultimately rejected.
After managing to stay in business through WWI and WWII, BMW thrived in the following decades. BMW spread out to many other countries through dealerships, created BMW Kredit to handle its financials, and helped nurture the fledgling automobile leasing markets of the 60s and 70s through Kredit. They created their first manufacturing facility outside of Europe with the construction of a plant in Rosslyn, South Africa. The region was suffering from the after-effects of Apartheid’s end, and BMW created a positive impact by standing by anti-discrimination laws paying their employees fairly, and providing aid to local schools. BMW history would change once again with its Motorsport subsidiary launch in 1972, ushering in a phase of creating top-quality sports cars that were affordable.
BMW became the face of luxury and of innovation in the automobile industry. They created the first Research and Innovation Center, staffed with scientists, engineers, designers, and other types of staff to work together on the newest, highest-quality vehicle concepts and models. BMW began building plants in the United States in 1994, a prudent move since the U.S. was BMW’s largest consumer at the time. In the same year, BMW acquired the Rover Group, but would later sell the company in 2000, save for their Mini vehicle model.
BMW in Today’s Age
In the new millennium, BMW has focused on changing and continuing to grow. BMW’s rolling out of their version of the Mini model became so globally popular that the company had to raise production rates by 150% to catch up to demand. Growing even more by creating three more manufacturing plants around the world, BMW is posed to be the best luxury automobile manufacturer in the world.