The history of the BMW Group: 100 years of fascination for mobility
On 7 March 2016, BMW will be celebrating 100 years of existence as a company. Over this period of time, a small aero-engine manufacturer based in the north of Munich has been transformed into a world-leading premium manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles, as well as a provider of premium finance and mobility services. On the route to this status, BMW has always proved to be a highly innovative company which has defined change and looked to the future. Today, the BMW Group is an international group of companies with production and assembly facilities in 14 countries and a global sales network. The company makes significant contributions to designing individual mobility of the future.
Looking at the history of the BMW Group reveals a large variety of events and decisions which exerted a sustainable impact on the development of the company while at the same time being an expression of its character. Pioneering products and strategic trajectories owe a debt of gratitude to these visionary moments. They are all based on the courage to try out something new and strike out on new pathways. The ambition of the company has always been to achieve more than just the basics and to compete with the best, while also fostering the capacity to accept challenges and emerge from them with enhanced strength of purpose.
Choosing independent pathways leading to innovative solutions.
The ambition to achieve superior characteristics and the readiness to opt for completely new and technically complex solutions instead of making do with the mundane has determined product development since the very beginnings of the company right up to the present day. The BMW IIIa aero-engine launched in 1917 already demonstrated exceptional power, reliability and efficiency when operated at great altitudes. These characteristics were based on the robust basic design as an inline six-cylinder engine and on the use of particularly lightweight materials combined with innovative technology for carburettor and ignition.
BMW also adopted an independent pathway when it developed the company’s first motorcycle. While other manufacturers were still working with the geometry of bicycles, the BMW R 32 was consistently designed around the engine. The model presented in 1923 was the first motorcycle powered
by a horizontally opposed twin-cylinder Boxer engine, featuring a manual gearbox bolted directly to the engine and power transmission along a shaft instead of a chain or belt. These key attributes remain defining characteristics for BMW motorcycles with Boxer, or flat-twin, engines to the present day.
After the company also became an automobile manufacturer in 1928, it initially produced small cars based on an established contemporary design. However, all the common conventions of the period were broken when the BMW 303 formed the first mid-range vehicle launched under the brand powered by an inline six-cylinder engine. The model was presented in 1933 and established a profile that was marked out from its competitors by the distinctive contour of the radiator cover, which is today still recognisable as the BMW kidney-shaped grille. Most importantly, the car also featured low weight as a result of the tubular frame with twin down tubes of different cross sections. These were used for the first time in an automobile. The design engineers thereby refuted the widely held conviction that only a heavy vehicle could deliver stable driving characteristics. The BMW 303 was lightweight, accelerated rapidly, slowed down effortlessly and drove round bends with agile and safe handling. BMW patented the tubular frame with twin down tubes and continued to base its automobiles on the principle of optimising weight.
The automobiles of the BMW i brand are the latest example of intelligent, lightweight construction, powerful innovation and particularly consistent pursuit of independent solutions. Their vehicle architecture has been specially developed for pure electrically powered or plug-in hybrid models, and the design combines an aluminium chassis with a passenger cell made of carbon- fibre reinforced plastic. The holistic approach adopted by BMW i contributes to ensuring that the BMW Group will play a pioneering role in the design of individual mobility for the future.
Taking responsibility, mastering challenges.
Production of aero-engines was initially banned in Germany after the end of the First World War, and from 1918 onwards, engines for trucks and boats, and from 1920 also engines for motorcycles, were among the products bearing the BMW logo. The purchasers included Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG, which was soon to assume considerable significance for BMW. The company took over the rights to the brand in June 1922 together with the BMW logo, the production facilities and the workforce. The comprehensive renaming of the company as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG also formed the platform for development into an independent engine and vehicle manufacturer. Since Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG was founded on 7 March
1916, this date is today regarded as the date when the company BMW was established.
Soon after the relaunch of BMW, aero-engines once again became the focus of government procurement agencies and their militarist objectives. In common with a large proportion of German industry, the managers at BMW were also guided by the ambition of achieving business efficiency as they addressed the political framework conditions of the 1930s and 1940s. The company therefore derived massive benefit from the new rearmament efforts. Starting in 1939, convicts, forced workers, prisoners of war and inmates of concentration camps were deployed in the production facilities operated by the company.
BMW has lived up to its responsibility for the events during the period of National Socialism and established initiatives that have contributed towards raising awareness and generating public debate. When the book “BMW – eine deutsche Geschichte” (“BMW – a German Story”) was published in 1983, the company was the first German industrial group to open up this chapter of its past to public scrutiny and discussion. Research into the period between 1933 and 1945 was carried out in the context of two dissertations, which were published in 2005 and 2008. In addition, BMW was among the inaugural members of the foundation “Erinnerung, Verantwortung, Zukunft” (“Remembrance, Responsibility, Future”) established to compensate the former victims of forced labour.
During the immediate post-war period, the company had to adopt a new approach in all aspects of its business. The first post-war motorcycle in the form of the BMW R 24 only came off the Munich production line in 1948. The manufacture of automobiles only started up again in 1952 and the anticipated business success initially eluded the company. At the Annual General Meeting held in 1959, the sale of BMW to Daimler-Benz AG – which was on the brink of being signed and sealed – was averted at the last minute. The restructuring plan developed under the aegis of major shareholder Herbert Quandt was based on the independence of BMW AG, new structures and new models. The breakthrough came with the BMW 1500 as the first model of the “New Class”. After just a few years had elapsed, BMW had developed from a candidate for takeover into a flagship company.
At the beginning of the 1970s, when the upswing was brought to an abrupt halt by the “oil crisis”, the managers at BMW set about overcoming the hard times and emerging from the crisis with renewed strength. In Munich, the new administrative tower familiar as the “Four-cylinder” and the BMW Museum were opened, and a new production plant started up operations in
Dingolfing. The BMW 5 Series was presented as the successor to the “New Class”. And indeed demand started to gather pace from 1975. BMW was in an outstanding position to respond with new models, expanded production capacities and optimised sales structures.
At the beginning of the 1990s, managers at BMW were once again at a crossroads. In 1994, they followed the sector-wide trend towards processes of concentration and decided to take over the British Rover Group, in order to acquire additional target groups with a wider range of automobiles. The endeavour was not a crowning success. In 2000, the Rover Group was sold again. BMW only continued with development of the MINI brand. The company had meanwhile undergone restructuring and had purchased the name and brand rights for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
Just before the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008, the “Number ONE” corporate strategy had defined the principles for sustainable, profitable growth and long-term increase in value. The associated measures were directed towards consolidating the position of the BMW Group as a world- leading premium manufacturer of automobiles and motorcycles, as well as a provider of premium finance and mobility services.
Benchmarking with the best: records and successes in motor sport.
As early as the beginning of the 20th century, competitive sporting events were regarded as the ideal setting for manufacturers of motorcycles and automobiles to impress the motoring public with the performance of new vehicles. Setting up national and international records was perceived as another way of providing factual evidence of advanced technology. For example, in June 1919, test pilot Zeno Diemer created a sensation with a world altitude record in an aircraft. He flew to an altitude of 9 760 metres in a plane powered by a BMW IV aero-engine. BMW engines powered the Dornier “Wal” (Whale), which was the first flying boat to go right round the world in the summer of 1932, and the “rail Zeppelin”, which had achieved a world speed record of 230 km/h for rail vehicles in the previous year. BMW works rider Ernst Jakob Henne set up numerous world records between 1929 and 1937 on two wheels. He achieved a speed of 279.503 km/h in his last record ride, which was to hold for 14 years. Records were also set up in more recent years with the objective of demonstrating innovative strength. At the BMW test circuit in Miramas, France, the BMW H2R prototype established nine records for vehicles powered by hydrogen in September 2004.
The first racing success for the BMW brand was achieved in February 1924. This was the day when designer and racing driver Rudolf Schleicher won the hillclimb on the steep Mittenwalder Gsteig. The slogan “Tested in Sport –
Proven in Series” (“Erprobt im Sport – bewährt in der Serie”) henceforth became a familiar moniker, underpinned by numerous German championships and the first international successes. The victory gained by Georg Meier with a supercharged BMW racing machine in 1939 was a particular landmark. Meier was the first rider from outside the United Kingdom to win the Tourist Trophy in the 500 cc class, known as the Senior TT, on the Isle of Man. British rider Jock West, also riding for BMW, came in second place. Exactly 75 years later, Northern Irish rider Michael Dunlop followed in Meier’s footsteps and rode to victory on a BMW S 1000 RR at the Senior TT.
“Schorsch” Meier continued his earlier successes in the post-war period and won the German Championship in 1947. The team’s racing machines powered by BMW engines in the Sidecar Combination World Championship had a particularly impressive series of wins with 20 constructors’ titles and 19 riders’ titles between 1954 and 1974. In 1980, the BMW R 80 G/S created a sensation in off-road racing for the first time. Winning the European Off-road Championship was followed by victories in the Paris-Dakar Rally in the years 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1985.
The first automobile produced by BMW also proved its worth in sporting competitions right from the start. Just four weeks after the car went on sale, the BMW 3/15 PS achieved a victory in the International Alpine Rally. The legendary BMW 328 roadster made its first public appearance on the race track. In June 1936, Ernst Henne proved his success on four wheels by driving the new model to class victory straightaway in the Eifel Race on the Nürburgring circuit. Four years later, the BMW brand achieved one of its biggest triumphs up to that point. Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer won the overall placings in the Mille Miglia endurance race held in Italy driving the BMW 328 Touring Coupé.
Initially, the post-war era only brought modest successes in motor racing. The “New Class” also notched up the first sensation here. In 1966, Hubert Hahne won the European Touring Car Championship driving the BMW 2000 TI. He also became the first driver to take a touring car round the north loop of the Nürburgring in less than ten minutes. The growing importance of motor-sport activities was manifested by the establishment of BMW Motorsport GmbH in May 1972. In the subsequent years, numerous successes were achieved mainly in touring-car racing. The collection of titles was enriched by the BMW 3.0 CSL, the BMW 635 CSi, the BMW 320 Group 5 and, most importantly, the BMW M3 Group A, which became the most successful touring car in the world.
In 1982, BMW took to the stage of Formula 1 as an engine supplier together with its partner Brabham. The big triumph followed just one year later. Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet won the World Championship. He was the first driver to take the title driving a car powered by a turbo engine. As a result of realigning its commitment to motor sport, BMW returned to the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) in 2012. The comeback brought with it maximum success at a stroke. Canadian Bruno Spengler ended the inaugural season driving the BMW M3 as German Touring Car Masters Champion. BMW also won the constructor’s and team placings.
The right product at the right time.
The pathway from aero-engine manufacturer with sales primarily dependent on procurement by a government agency to a leading supplier of premium automobiles with global appeal is closely linked with the history of individual mobility over the past 100 years. Again and again, the company succeeded in using its engineering skills and creativity to create products that successfully met contemporary needs and desires with unique qualities and an independent character. New vehicle segments were established and additional target groups were harnessed with an unerring instinct for identifying customers’ aspirations that were not covered by other players in the market. This flair also identified market niches with potential for sustainable growth and developed innovations that were transformed into trends.
The growing importance of civil aviation during the 1920s encouraged BMW to design new and particularly powerful aero-engines on the basis of proven designs. The BMW VI aero-engine, a twelve-cylinder V engine, was launched in the marketplace in 1926. It went on to become an export hit across the world and developed into the company’s most successful product in the 1920s. The BMW VI was also fitted in the Heinkel HE 70, which was regarded as the fastest commercial aircraft in the world at the time and was given the nickname “Blitz” or “lightning”.
The company also precisely geared its first motorcycle to the needs of the time. The BMW R 32 was launched in 1923 and featured safe and sporty handling characteristics alongside a high level of reliability. The drive shaft had clear advantages of low wear and minimum maintenance on dirt tracks. BMW was also aiming to attract sophisticated customers with its first mid-range automobiles. Most importantly, the BMW 326 launched in 1936 was powered by a 50 hp six-cylinder engine and presented an exclusive offering with a generously spaced interior and high-quality craftsmanship. Around
16 000 units were sold and this made it the brand’s best-selling automobile up to that point. BMW was on a successful technological and commercial
trajectory with its aero-engines, motorcycles and automobiles before the political changes in Germany during the 1930s brought the international alignment of the company and diversification in the civilian production programme to an abrupt halt.
In post-war Germany, the BMW Isetta initially reflected the spirit of the times during the years of the economic miracle. More than 160 000 units of the “Motocoupé” were sold – the two-seater was even in demand in the USA, the country of road cruisers. The BMW 700 lived up to sporty ambitions and was initially launched as a coupé in 1959 and a little later as a saloon. The successful sales of this car ensured the very survival of the company. In 1961, BMW finally launched a model in the BMW 1500 which customers had clearly been missing. The sales strategists perceived a need for a high-quality, mid- range saloon. The design engineers delivered a four-door automobile with a streamlined design and a powerful four-cylinder engine and advanced chassis technology. The “New Class” was a symbol of individuality at a high level, and its special character was mainly based on comfortable characteristics and sportiness. In 1965, the most powerful model up to that point was launched with the BMW 1800 TI/SA as a platform for motor sport – and at the same time the new slogan, which continues to be used today, encapsulated the reasons for the success of the “New Class”: “Freude am Fahren” – “The Ultimate Driving Machine”.
Seven years later, “The Ultimate Driving Machine” also became the guiding principle for BMW motorcycles. The company had previously launched the new models BMW R 50/5, BMW R 60/5 and BMW R 75/5 on the market. Riding motorcycles had now become an enjoyable leisure pastime which could be enjoyed particularly intensively on the sporty touring machines. In 1980, BMW engineered the next pioneering achievement in the motorcycle segment. The touring Enduro BMW R 80 G/S was a precursor to the popular category of motorcycles which still generates sheer riding pleasure today on off-road terrain and on roads.
A new form of diversity also characterised the pioneering vehicle concept with which BMW created a sensation in the automobile sector in 1999. Even before the global SUV boom became established, the company launched the BMW X5 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which combined the dynamic performance on the road typical of the brand with superior all-round characteristics, a high seat position and all-wheel drive. This heralded the launch of the Sports Activity Vehicle segment where BMW also played the role of pioneer as it transferred the concept to other vehicle classes in the years to come. The range now comprises five BMW X Models,
including two Sports Activity Coupés which enabled the brand to conquer new conceptual territory with a great deal of success.
On the threshold to the next century of its corporate history, the BMW Group is taking on a pioneering role in designing a form of mobility that is independent of fossil fuels and free of local emissions. Since 2013, the BMW i3 has provided the Ultimate Driving Machine in a pure electrically powered premium automobile. Furthermore, the plug-in hybrid model BMW i8 introduced in 2014 allows drivers to experience the future of the sports car right now.
100 facts from 100 years.
7 March 1916
Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG is established as the successor to aircraft manufacturer Gustav-Otto-Flugmaschinenfabrik with registered office at Lerchenauer Straße in Munich. In 1922, engine construction, the name and the brand logo of Bayerische Motorenwerke AG are transferred to this company. This is therefore regarded as the date of establishment of the “New BMW AG”.
21 July 1917
The aero-engine maker Rapp-Motorenwerke GmbH, founded in 1913, is entered in the Commercial Register with the name of Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, and soon afterwards, new manufacturing facilities are set up at Moosacher Straße in Munich.
10 December 1917
The round brand logo with the letters BMW and the stylised propeller designed in the Bavarian national colours of blue and white is entered under the number 221388 in the Trademark Registry of the Imperial Patents Office. At the end of the 1920s, this livery appears for the first time in advertising as a stylised rotating propeller, which has since then formed the basis for the interpretation of the logo.
17 June 1919
Test pilot Zeno Diemer reaches an altitude of 9 760 meters in his aircraft manufactured by Deutsche Flugzeugwerke and powered by the BMW IV inline six- cylinder engine, setting up a new world altitude record.
6 July 1922
Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG takes over the company name of Bayerische Motoren Werke, the brand logo and engine construction from the current owner, Knorr-Bremse AG.
28 September 1923
At the German Motor Show in Berlin, the BMW R 32 is presented: the first motorcycle produced under the brand, developed under the management of Max Friz, powered by a horizontally opposed twin-cylinder, four-stroke Boxer engine.
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2 February 1924
Engineer and racing driver Rudolf Schleicher achieves the best time riding a BMW R 32 in the hillclimb on the steep Mittenwalder Gsteig – and brings home the first victory to BMW in the history of motor sport.
1 October 1928
BMW takes over automaker Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach in Thuringia where the Dixi 3/15 PS small car is manufactured as a licensed version of the British Austin Seven. This makes the company a manufacturer of automobiles.
22 March 1929
The first BMW 3/15 PS rolls off the assembly line in the production building rented from coachbuilder Ambi-Budd at the old Berlin-Johannisthal airfield.
22 June 1931
The “Rail Zeppelin” powered by the BMW VI twelve-cylinder aero-engine built by railway designer Franz Kruckenberg reaches a speed of 230 km/h and thereby achieves a new world speed record for rail vehicles.
1 March 1932
BMW ends the licence agreement with Austin and soon afterwards presents the company’s first in-house automobile design: the BMW 3/20 PS with a new four- cylinder engine and a two-door all-steel body.
22 July 1932
Pilot Wolfgang von Gronau takes off in the Dornier “Wal” (whale) flying boat, powered by two 600 hp twelve-cylinder engines of the type BMW VIIa, to complete the first circumnavigation of the world covering a total distance of 44 800 kilometres.
11 February 1933
The BMW 303 is presented at the International Motor Show in Berlin as the brand’s first six-cylinder automobile and also the first model to be styled with the BMW signature kidney-shaped radiator grille.
21 December 1934
The construction of aero-engines is hived off to a dedicated company with retroactive effect to 1 January 1934 and becomes BMW Flugmotorenbau GmbH.
15 February 1936
The BMW 326 is presented at the International Motor Show in Berlin as the new mid- range model powered by an inline six-cylinder in-line engine, designed with a box- section frame, aerodynamically contoured body and hydraulic brake system.
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14 June 1936
The two-litre BMW 328 sports car is presented in public for the first time racing in the Eifel Race at the Nürburgring – Ernst Jakob Henne immediately achieves a clear start- finish victory driving the new model.
28 November 1937
The BMW works driver Ernst Henne starts on the last of many world record rides and achieves a record speed of 279.503 km/ on a fully faired BMW motorcycle with a supercharger – a record that is only broken 14 years later.
8 June 1939
Georg “Schorsch” Meier is the first non-Briton to win the Senior-TT on the Isle of Man riding a BMW supercharged motorcycle.
30 September 1939
BMW AG takes over all the shares in Brandenburgische Motorenwerke GmbH in Berlin-Spandau. BMW had already been cooperating with the company on the development of air-cooled aircraft engines.
28 April 1940
Fritz Huschke von Hanstein and Walter Bäumer achieve overall victory in the Mille Miglia endurance race in Italy driving the BMW 328 Touring Coupé, and they also win the team placing in all classes for BMW.
30 April 1945
Soldiers from the 7th US Army reach the so-called shadow plant and the camp in Allach near Munich. From December 1939, prisoners of war, convicts, forced labourers and inmates of concentration camps have been used there and at other locations to produce aero-engines.
17 December 1948
Motorcycle production is started up again in Munich. A BMW R 24 powered by a single-cylinder engine is manufactured there as the first vehicle from BMW AG in the post-war era.
11 March 1954
The BMW 502 presented at the Geneva Motor Show is powered by an eight-cylinder engine, the world’s first V8 all-alloy engine to be fitted in a volume-produced automobile.
12 September 1954
After their victory in the final race in Monza, Wilhelm Noll and Fritz Cron achieve their first World Championship Title in sidecar-combination racing on a BMW. By 1974,
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BMW had succeeded in collecting 19 riders’ and 20 constructors’ World Championship Titles in this discipline.
1 October 1954
BMW acquires the licence to build a two-seater microcar with a front door from Italian manufacturer Iso. The BMW Isetta has a lot of refined details, it is powered by BMW motorcycle engines and marketed as a “Motocoupé”, the best-selling model sold by the brand during the 1950s.
15 January 1955
A new model series is presented at the Brussels Motor Show with the BMW R 50 and the BMW R 69 manufactured with a full swing arm suspension. The series defined the BMW motorcycle programme until 1969.
22 September 1955
The BMW 507 made its first public appearance at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. This roadster had been penned by designer Albrecht Graf Goertz with a 150 hp eight-cylinder engine and it is celebrated in the press as the “Dream from the Isar”.
9 June 1959
The Board of Management of BMW AG presents the new BMW 700 Coupé to international journalists at a press launch. This car was to lay the foundations for profitable large-scale production of automobiles.
9 December 1959
At the Annual General Meeting of BMW AG, a group of small shareholders prevents the takeover by Daimler-Benz AG. Major shareholder Herbert Quandt decides to make a bigger commitment which secures the independence of BMW.
30 November 1960
The Annual General Meeting of BMW AG approves the restructuring plan for the realignment of the company and this charts the trajectory for a successful future.
21 September 1961
The BMW 1500 celebrates its world premiere at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt – the start of the trailblazing success of the “New Class”.
29 June 1964
The positive business development encourages the Annual General Meeting of BMW AG to pass a resolution on paying a dividend to the shareholders for the first time since the end of the war.
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18 June 1965
BMW AG sells its remaining shares in BMW Triebwerkbau GmbH to MAN AG and brings its involvement in aero-engine production to an end for the time being.
7 March 1966
The two-door BMW 1600 is presented to guests in front of the Bavarian State Opera House on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the company.
2 January 1967
BMW AG takes over the company Hans Glas GmbH, which produces a number of vehicles including the Goggomobil microcar, numerous other models and agricultural machinery.
25 September 1968
The new six-cylinder models BMW 2500 and BMW 2800 are presented at a press reception on Lake Tegernsee. After a break of several years, the brand once again enters the luxury class with these automobiles.
31 December 1968
BMW AG concludes another record year. More than 100 000 automobiles are produced for the first time in one year.
13 May 1969
Motorcycle production at the BMW main plant in Munich comes to an end. Production is relocated to the site in Berlin where the new BMW /5 Series starts rolling off the production line from September 1969.
16 March 1971
The company enters the financial services business with the establishment of BMW Kredit GmbH.
20 October 1971
The new BMW test track and trial facility is opened in Aschheim near Munich.
24 May 1972
BMW Motorsport GmbH is established. It is responsible for all motor-sport activities and for the development of race cars and particularly sporty automobiles licensed for use on roads.
31 August 1972
BMW AG founds BMW (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd and has a majority shareholding in this sales and production company. This makes the plant at Rosslyn in South Africa the first production facility outside Germany.
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10 September 1972
At the Olympic Games in Munich, a BMW 1602 Elektro is used as a support vehicle for the marathon race. This is the first pure electrically powered automobile under the BMW brand.
12 September 1972
BMW launches a new structure for model designations with the first BMW 5 Series as the successor to the “New Class”. This gives BMW clearly defined model designations that are easy to remember, and the principle underlying the system continues to this day. The first digit represents the series and the two subsequent digits specify the model based on the capacity of the engine.
8 January 1973
When the BMW subsidiary is established in France, the company begins to take control of sales activities in the international markets.
18 May 1973
The new administrative building and the BMW Museum are officially opened. Construction of the structural shell of the “Four-Cylinder” and the “Museum Bowl” had been completed in time for the Olympic Games the year before.
27 September 1973
Production starts up in the extensively expanded and modernised Dingolfing Plant. Initially, the models of the BMW 5 Series are manufactured there.
14 June 1975
A BMW 3.0 CSL designed by American artist Alexander Calder is the first BMW Art Car to start at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
This is the beginning of a fascinating and unique Art Collection which BMW is continuing to augment today.
30 June 1975
In Munich’s Olympic Stadium, the Board of Management of BMW AG presents the BMW 3 Series which is launched as the successor to the successful BMW 02 Series with new technology and new model designation.
3 February 1976
BMW Motorsport GmbH is commissioned to establish a “driving school” which has become established as BMW Driving Experience and MINI Driving Experience, offering a training and experience programme for more joy and safety at the steering wheel. The first official courses start on 22 April 1977.
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11 March 1976
The coupés of the new BMW 6 Series are presented at the International Motor Show in Geneva.
5 October 1978
The BMW M1 is presented at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris. This is a mid- engined sports car generating 277 hp developed by BMW Motorsport GmbH. Its racing version creates a sensation at races including the Procar Series in the supporting programme for Formula 1 in Europe in 1979 and 1980.
21 June 1979
Ground-breaking ceremony for the engine plant in Steyr, Austria, which today serves as a centre of competence for the development and production of a variety of engines including BMW diesel power units.
20 January 1981
French racing driver Hubert Auriol wins the Paris-Dakar Rally riding a BMW R 80 G/S and provides further proof for the reliability of the Enduro model launched the year before, which is powered by a Boxer flat-twin engine.
13 June 1983
BMW presents the first series of automobiles in the company’s history powered by a diesel engine, the BMW 524td with an inline six-cylinder turbo diesel engine generating 85 kW/115 hp.
15 October 1983
At the South African Grand Prix, Brazilian racing driver Nelson Piquet becomes Formula 1 World Champion driving the Brabham BMW – just 630 days after the premiere of BMW in the blue-riband event, and he is also the first champion in a vehicle with a turbo engine.
1 January 1985
BMW Technik GmbH is established as an autonomous think tank and innovation incubator, which develops visionary vehicle and part concepts.
12 September 1985
BMW presents the first all-wheel drive model at the International Motor Show, the BMW 325i all-wheel drive, and the extremely sporty BMW M3.
5 March 1987
The BMW 750i is presented at the Geneva Motor Show, the first twelve-cylinder model to roll off a German production line since the end of the war.
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22 May 1987
The new BMW Plant Regensburg is officially opened. The first model that was manufactured there from the end of 1986 is the BMW 3 Series saloon.
11 September 1987
The BMW Z1 roadster developed by BMW Technik GmbH is presented at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt.
15 November 1987
Italian racing driver Roberto Ravaglia becomes the first Touring Car World Champion driving a BMW M3 with the Schnitzer Motorsport team.
27 April 1990
The Research and Engineering Centre (FIZ – today known as the Research and Innovation Centre) is officially opened with a gala ceremony in the Milbertshofen district of Munich. Around 7 000 researchers, engineers, designers, managers and technicians work there in a close-knit network.
1 July 1990
BMW AG joins forces with its partner Rolls-Royce Plc to establish the independent company Rolls-Royce GmbH for the development, construction and sale of aircraft turbines, and this joint venture takes the company back to its origins. In the wake of the realignment of the company, BMW AG sells its shares in Rolls-Royce plc at the end of 1999.
10 March 1992
The new plant of BMW Fahrzeugtechnik GmbH is opened at the traditional heritage site in Eisenach. Pressing tools are manufactured there for the company’s production network.
1 August 1993
BMW Motorsport GmbH established in 1972 changes its name to BMW M GmbH Gesellschaft für individuelle Automobile (BMW M GmbH: For individualists.).
29 January 1994
With the signing of the purchase contract, BMW AG takes over the British Rover Group, which includes the brands Rover, MG, MINI and Land Rover.
8 April 1994
BMW Group Mobile Tradition is set up, and from 2008 it is responsible for all requirements relating to the company and product history as BMW Group Classic.
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8 September 1994
Vehicle production at the BMW Plant Spartanburg in the US state of South Carolina starts up – a BMW 318i is the first model to roll off the production line. The official opening of the new location is held on 15 November.
8 June 1998
The company announces the continuation of the MINI brand, acquired through the purchase of the Rover Group, in an independent design.
14 June 1998
The BMW 320d is the first vehicle powered by a diesel engine to win the 24 Hour Race at the Nürburgring.
10 January 1999
BMW presents the vehicle concept of the Sports Activity Vehicle at the Detroit Auto Show. The BMW X5 combines sportiness typical of the brand with the versatile qualities of an all-wheel vehicle and thereby establishes a new market segment with this concept.
1 October 1999
BMW AG and the Rover Group are merged in the BMW Group, with the new structure highlighting the Group function of the company as an umbrella for several brands.
29 October 1999
The BMW Tower known as the “Four-Cylinder” and the neighbouring BMW Museum are designated as heritage sites and become subject to protection.
9 May 2000
BMW AG sells the Rover Group without the brands MINI and Land Rover to the Phoenix Venture Group, and two weeks later the Ford Motor Corporation takes over Land Rover. Only MINI remains part of the BMW Group.
26 April 2001
A few months after the relaunch of the brand, the first MINI rolls off the assembly line at the comprehensively modernised production plant in Oxford, United Kingdom, the original home of the classic Mini.
13 September 2001
World premiere of the new BMW 7 Series at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. BMW introduces its revolutionary iDrive control system for the first time in the fourth generation of the luxury saloon.
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31 December 2002
The BMW Group closes the business year with a new sales record. For the first time, more than one million cars of the BMW and MINI brands are sold within one year.
3 January 2003
Since the beginning of the year, the Rolls-Royce brand has been officially part of the BMW Group. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited goes on to present the first model of the new era at the company’s new registered office in Goodwood: the Rolls-Royce Phantom.
20 May 2004
The Dadong production plant is opened in Shenyang in the north-east of China. The plant is operated together with the joint-venture partner Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd.
25 September 2004
The sheer driving pleasure typical of the brand is experienced for the first time in the compact segment through the BMW 1 Series presented at the Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris.
13 May 2005
The BMW Plant Leipzig designed by star architect Zaha Hadid is opened. The first cars produced there are vehicles in the BMW 3 Series, and other models follow.
7 September 2005
The BMW Group is listed for the first time in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as the world’s most sustainable automobile manufacturer.
13 September 2006
When production is launched for the new model generation of MINI, the British MINI Production Triangle officially starts operating with sites in Swindon, Hams Hall and Oxford.
27 September 2007
The Board of Management of BMW AG presents the new Number ONE corporate strategy with the objective of long-term, profitable growth.
17 October 2007
BMW Welt is opened. The futuristically designed building with multifunctional use offers a unique brand experience. Customers from all over the world can take delivery of their new car in an atmosphere that is typical of the brand.
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19 November 2008
The MINI E is presented at the Los Angeles Auto Show. This is a pure electrically powered small car for field tests in routine everyday traffic. It is a product of the i project created by the BMW Group for the development of sustainable mobility solutions.
21 February 2011
The new BMW i subbrand is presented in BMW Welt. The innovations developed by the company for the subbrand include electrically powered automobiles and innovative mobility services.
1 April 2011
The DriveNow premium car-sharing service starts operating as a joint venture between the BMW Group and Sixt AG in Munich.
1 September 2011
The carbon-fibre plant located at Moses Lake in the US state of Washington comes on stream as a joint venture between the BMW Group and the SGL Group. The plant supplies the starting material for production of the passenger cells in the models BMW i3 and BMW i8, which are made of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP).
15 January 2012
The German X-raid private team drives the MINI ALL4 Racing to victory in the Dakar Rally. The car was designed on the basis of the MINI Countryman and was specially developed for endurance rallies.
29 April 2012
After 18 years, BMW returns to the German Touring Car Masters (DTM) in Hockenheim on 21 October in a victory with three titles. Canadian Bruno Spengler becomes DTM Champion in the BMW M3 DTM, and BMW also wins the constructors’ and team placings.
24 May 2012
The Tiexi Plant is opened in Shenyang as the second production facility in China operated by the BMW Group and Brilliance China Automotive Holdings Ltd.
18 September 2013
Production of the BMW i3 starts up at the BMW Plant Leipzig. This empowers the BMW Group to put the first premium electric vehicle on the road. The car was designed right from scratch for this type of power unit.
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26 February 2014
BMW Group Classic announces its move to a new site. This represents a return to the historic roots of the company. The purchase of the parcel of land in Moosacher Straße, Munich, from Knorr-Bremse AG brings some of the first production facilities back into the ownership of the company.
5 June 2014
The first units of the BMW i8 plug-in sports car hybrid are handed over to customers at BMW Welt in Munich.
10 June 2015
The new BMW 7 Series is presented in BMW Welt. The sixth generation of the luxury saloon offers unique innovations, including the body structure with carbon core, BMW gesture control and remotely controlled parking.
6 December 2015
BMW i is granted the “Momentum of Change” Award by the United Nations at the UN Climate Conference in Paris for commitment to expanding the public charging infrastructure. This is the apogee of a unique series of national and international titles in the automobile sector, including the “Grünes Lenkrad” (Green Steering Wheel) for the BMW i3 and the “World Green Car Award” earned consecutively by the BMW i3 and the BMW i8. These awards were already given to the BMW i brand and its vehicles during the market launch phase.
6 January 2016
The company uses the study BMW i Vision Future Interaction as the basis to present pioneering innovations in the areas of control and autonomous driving at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
7 March 2016
The 100th anniversary of the company is celebrated at a gala event in Munich’s Olympiahalle multipurpose arena.