Initially the company was created as a result of Rapp Motorenwerke aircraft manufacturer reorganization in 1917. It had long been involved in elaborating and assemblage of aircraft engines, primarily for German military aviation. Another vast field of company's activities is motorcycle production which began in 1923 under BMW Motorrad brand. The first two-wheel vehicle ever constructed by BMW was the R32 motorcycle. In 1930 the automaker produced its first automobile – Dixi. The first vehicle that happened to bear the most distinguishable trait of the brand – a kidney-shaped grille, was the 1934 “303” six-cylinder model.
Following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945 BMW suffered losses and had its production facilities destroyed or severely damaged due to allied bombings. After-war luxurious and expensive models “501” and “507” did not bring about any commercial success pushing BMW at the brink of collapse by 1959. However its shareholders decided to buy the rights to manufacture Iso Isetta – an Italian mini car, which subsequently helped the brand to stay afloat. It was equipped with an upgraded one-cylinder four-stroke BMW motorcycle engine.
The company used a neat policy of acquisitions, namely the 1966 takeover of Hans Glas manufacturer which led BMW to possess a considerable amount of skilled engineers and advanced technologies plus additional production capacity. The brand also took control of the following companies: DesignworksUSA studio in 1995, the Rover Group in 1994, the Rolls-Royce in 1998 and the Husqvarna Motorcycles in 2007. However some of them were later resold. Starting from the 1960s BMW began paving the way towards its ultimate success, introducing the Neue Klasse (the New Class) Series. The 1961 “1500” model was a compact four-cylinder sedan powered by BMW’s positively acclaimed M 10 engine. It was followed by the 1977 “2002” model. The both were available in four-door and two-door modifications.
In the late 1960s BMW introduced the New Six Series high end sedans and coupés with six-cylinder engine. The 1972 5-Series appeared as a rearranged version of a full-size executive sedan. BMW has a significant record of racing exploits. The marque participated in the Paris-Dakar Rally and achieved a total of 6 victories. Its cars were represented in such events as British Touring Car Championship, World Touring Car championship, 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona. It had 21 successful races at the Spa 24 Hours. Seemingly, one of the most important events in the BMW racing history was the debut in Formula One with its own team in 2006. However BMW didn’t linger for a long time in this branch of motor racing and abandoned it in 2009.
Currently BMW produces a broad lineup of motorcycles and luxury automobiles. The range is represented by Z-, X-, 1-7 Series each comprising several modifications such as coupés, SUV’s (or SAV’s – Sport Activity Vehicles, a special designation introduced by BMW), station wagons, convertibles and sedans. The marque also offers additional high-performance M models under the BMW M GmbH.
As of today, BMW is a member of the “German Big 3” high end cars manufacturers which includes Audi and Mercedes-Benz.