What is BMW?
BMW, also known as Bayerische Moteren Werke AG, is a German company that makes far more than you might think. Of course, the company is responsible for manufacturing cars under the BMW label, and they also produce prestigious luxury cars and family friendly vehicles as the parent company of Rolls-Royce and Mini, respectively.
The company’s name translates to Bavarian Motor Works, which makes sense given that their headquarters in Munich are located in the Bavaria region of Germany. The first company that bore BMW’s name was initially an aircraft engine manufacturer in World War I called Rapp Moterenwerke, which changed its name to BMW in 1916. Competitor Bayerische Flugzeigwerke, whose name translates to Bavarian Airplane Works, purchased BMW in 1918, and the company chugged along fine, doing especially well with motorcycles, until 1928.
In 1928, BMW purchased Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, German for Eisenach Car Factory, and began manufacturing automobiles for the very first time.
How Did BMW Cars Begin?
The first cars that BMW made were not licensed BMWs. Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach made a model called the Dixi 3/15, which was not an original design but a licensed copy of the Austin 7, a British car halfway between the Ford Model T and the Model A.
Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach began producing Dixi 3/15s in 1927, and BMW continued producing them until 1929, when the company changed the design slightly and began labeling them BMW 3/15s. The car was a 3-speed manual with 15 horsepower, and it was only the beginning for the company.
BMW developed their first original car in 1930. After a few failed experiments, they landed on the BMW 303, which had 30 horsepower and a 4-speed manual transmission. The car had a six cylinder engine, the first BMW to feature one. Manufactured in Bavaria, it was still considered something of a low-powered economy car, but it was a start for the high-powered company of today.
Who Makes BMW Cars Today?
BMW has come a long way since their 1930s Bavarian start, both in models manufactured and how and where they are made. BMWs began looking and functioning like the somewhat upscale family cars with their first four-door sedan, a 326, which first came out in 1936. Designed by Fritz Fielder, Alfred Boning, and Peter Schimanowski, it became the basis for many future BMW models and solidified the company’s reputation, even though only about 15,000 were made.
The BMWs of today began in 1972, when the E12, first of the 5 series of sedans available today, was first manufactured in West Germany and South Africa, designed by Gruppo Bertone, Paul Bracq, and Claus Luthe. Though that model ceased manufacturing in 1981, the idea of it lives on in the 5 series of today, which includes the F10, the F11, and the hatchback Gran Turismo, also known as the F7, all of which were launched in 2009. The new 3 series, including the F30, F31, and F34, launched in the model years 2012 and 2013.
BMWs are manufactured all over the world today, in plants owned or partially owned by the BMW Group that integrate human workers and large, powerful, and technologically advanced robots.
Each BMW is made of at least 20,000 individual parts, and if it is any indication of how many are manufactured, the company sold 1.8 million BMWs in 2014. Those cars are made in some of BMW’s nineteen factories in nine countries. Each BMW factory is unique. Every one, including the Munich factory in which it all began, has its own agenda; some manufacture entire cars, while the one in Berlin only makes motorcycles.
BMW is even expanding; they have plans to open a new factory in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, in 2019, which will be based on their German factories and will employ up to 1500 people.