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What Does BMW Stand For and How BMW Began

Aug 2, 2020

BMW has been an iconic brand in the automobile industry for luxury vehicles. From the renowned driving performance to the pioneering driving technologies, BMW is recognized as “The Ultimate Driving Machine” and “Sheer Driving Pleasure.” So, how did this automaker become the BMW we know today, and what does the name BMW stand for? Let’s explore.

What Does BMW Stand For?

Each letter in “BMW” stands for Bayerische Motoren Werke in German. In English, BMW is translated to Bavarian Motor Works.

A Brief BMW History of the BMW Name

The BMW headquarter is located in Bavaria’s capital, Munich, in Germany, where the company was founded in 1916. BMW initially started by manufacturing airplane engines in 1917 under the company name Rapp Motorenwerke. After the founder Karl Friedrich Rapp left the company, the business was renamed to BMW – Bayerische Motoren Werke. But, there is more to the story.

In 1918, as World War I ended, the company’s aircraft engine production was terminated by the Versailles Armistice Treaty. BMW kept its business going by producing household and farming equipment as well as railway brakes. Engines for trucks and boats with BMW’s logo also began production, and in 1920 BMW added its logo-bearing motorcycle engines to the product line.

In 1922, BMW was renamed to Süddeutsche Bremse AG, which is known today as Knorr-Bremse. The rename was the result of the Camillo Castiglioni, the company’s former major shareholder, purchasing the right to the name “BMW.” Castiglioni then renamed his investment aircraft company Bayerische Flugzeugwerke to BMW, Bayerische Motoren Werke, or Bavarian Motor Works. 1922 was marked as the company’s official takeover of the BMW brand and logo, and the entire production line.

The Iconic BMW Twin Kidney Grilles

In 1928, BMW became an automobile manufacturer and started to produce automobiles based on existing contemporary designs after acquiring the car company Automobilwerk Eisenach.

In 1933, the birth of BMW’s first mid-range model, BMW 303, distinguished BMW from its automaker competitors. The BMW 303 featured a powerful inline six-cylinder engine, the patented, lightweight tubular frame with twin down tubes, and the iconic radiator covers — the infamous twin-kidney grilles.


BMW Motorsports

In 1924, BMW attained its very first success in racing on the Mittenwalder Gsteig hill climb by race driver Rudolf Schleicher. Since then, BMW has become involved in racing, touring, and Motorsport activities, the success has finally led to the establishment of BMW Motorsport GmbH in 1972.

1982 was the year that BMW first participated in Formula 1 as an engine supplier with its partner Brabham Team. Shortly after, in 1983, the Brazilian racer Nelson Piquet won the World Championship with BMW’s turbo engine, which was marked as a milestone success for BMW Motorsports. The winning Formula 1 turbo engine was a 1.5-liter four-cylinder paired with an exhaust turbocharger and a unique digital engine electronics, which produced up to 1300 horsepower.

BMW’s victory in Motorsports heightened as the iconic BMW M3 made won the touring-car championship in 1987. The first generation of the BMW M3 conquered the international touring-car racing for five consecutive years. See our complete guide on BMW M3 History.

BMW Slogan – The Ultimate Driving Machine

In 1961, BMW released a new high-quality “New Class” – a sleek, mid-range four-door equipped with BMW’s four-cylinder engine. The “New Class” created a new niche market in the auto industry, combining comfort, design, and sporting characteristics which led to BMW’s economic success.

In 1965, with BMW’s release of its most powerful model produced to-date the BMW 1800 TI/SA, along with the famous slogan we know today “Freude am Fahren” or “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”  It signified the accomplishments achieved by BMW’s “New Class,” and it was the perfect representation of BMW’s success in pioneering engineering and design.

BMW celebrated its 100th year anniversary of the company on March 7th, 2016. Today, BMW ranks number twelve as the world’s largest motor vehicle producer. BMW has automobile manufacturing plants in many different countries, including Germany, United States, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. Both the BMW M (performance cars) and BMW i (hybrid and electric cars) are popular sub-brands of the BMW brand.

BMW North America

BMW of North America, as part of the BMW Group, was established in 1975. The North America Corporate Headquarter, Eastern Region Headquarter, and Technical Training Center are strategically based in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey. The BMW USA’s design department is in California with its technology talents in Silicon Valley, California, and Chicago, Illinois. The Vehicle Preparation Center is located in Port Jersey, New Jersey while the Regional Distribution Center is in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

The US-based manufacturing facility BMW Spartanburg or better known as the BMW US Manufacturing Company is part of the BMW manufacturing chain worldwide, and it is located in Greer, South Carolina. The US manufacturing plant is the only global production site for BMW X3, X4, X5, X6, and X7 models, and all the other models sold and distributed in the US market are imported.