The company BMW or Bayerische Motorenwerke was formed in 1917 after the merger of three other companies Rapp Motorenwerke and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke. Both of these companies manufactured engines for airplanes but struggled during the First World War. Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach was acquired by the company in 1928 and this helped complete the transition from manufacturing airplane engines to making cars. It began to design its own cars in 1932. Before this it made cars that had been designed by the Austin Motor Company.
The period of the Second World War was a dark time for the company and one that it now deeply regrets. It manufactured war materials for the military in Germany and this meant that there was a substantial increase in production. Many of the employees of these factories had been called up to the military and so BMW began to hire foreign workers. They were still not able to keep up with demand and eventually began to use POWs from Eastern Europe and from Nazi concentration camps. Efficiency was the main concern which led to dangerous and inhumane practices being used. This is obviously something that BMW are not proud of and they sincerely regret the way that these workers were treated.
The years after the war saw a period of rebuilding. The first car to be produced after the war was the BMW 501 and this began to be sold in 1951. It was a luxury car but did not perform that well in the luxury market and was only produced until 1958. What it did do, however, was help to confirm BMW’s reputation as a manufacturer of high quality cars that were also very technically advanced. Daimler-Benz attempted to acquire BMW in 1959 but the shareholders declined this offer. The German government offered financial assistance which allowed the company to restructure under new management in 1960.
The Successful Period
The 1970s saw one of the most successful periods in the companies history and it was during this time that it became the successful international business that it is known as today. Their first plant outside of Germany was opened in Rosslyn, near to Pretoria, South Africa in 1972. This provided some stability in terms of jobs in the uncertain years after Apartheid had ended. The factory had strict measures in place that prevented and discouraged segregation and discrimination. They also provided support to local schools and community groups. In 1973 the first sales subsidiary opened in France. This was the first time that sales had not been administered in Munich. Soon after this sales offices began to be found in a number of countries around the world.
In the first years of the new millennium
and the years leading up to it, BMW continued to expand. 1994 was a big year as they opened their first production plant in the United States and purchased the Rover Group which was based in the U.K. It was through this acquisition that they came to hold the rights for producing the new Mini. A specialized plant was opened in Oxford, England to cope with the demand that BMW had for the Mini. It’s goal is now to be the leading manufacturer of luxury vehicles in the world.