Unarguably one of the most easily recognizable cars of any road the BMW was founded in 1916 as Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Motor Works) shortened to BMW.
Marketing psychologists are of the opinion that it is one (if not) the most addictive car brand in the world in that BMW aficionados are the most faithful where brand fidelity is concerned. Many of them drive BMWs till they die. And this is inspite of the car’s high maintenance and oftentimes complicated engineering.
When in 1983, Toyota Chairman Eiji Toyoda issued a challenge to Toyota engineers to build the world’s best car (Lexus) , the template he gave them was to build a driver’s car ( like BMW), not a chauffeur driven car like the others. A car owners would love to drive themselves.
What is it about the BMW that makes it driver’s car and why is it that people do not buy a BMW and employ someone to drive them?
The BMW feel. Afficionados confess that no car surrenders its excess power and willingness to be explored as a BMW. It is far quicker than most cars on the road, and its response rate is far above average and it stops better and in shorter distance than most cars. It seems to have that uncanny ability to guess what the driver wants to achieve, and be ready for it even before the driver thinks it up.
But the most fascinating aspect of BMW engineering is that its weight is balanced 50/50 on both axles so when you turn hard and throttle you don´t feel the bulk of the mass or the diving nose on hard braking.
BMW engineers created a suspension that was designed to go down on both axles under hard braking so the driver hardly loses tire contact on the rear end and maintains control all the time. It is that hugging of the road even at devil speeds that BMW does excellently well, that makes it hard for BMW drivers to enjoy other cars.
That ability for all wheels to basically stay firmly planted on the road without the suspension having to be too stiffly tuned is a feat of engineering that BMW have absolutely mastered. And there lies the reason for the obsessive brand loyalty.
But the company was not founded to manufacture cars.
I know you will remind me of many other companies that were not established to manufacture cars but today are better known for their cars than their original purposes.
Toyota was a textile company, Lamboghini was a tractor building company, Hyndai was a construction and equipment sales outfit. Opel was a Sewing Machines manufacturer; Saab was into aircraft engines that’s why they are masters of the turbo car engines, Suzuki started out as Looms company. Peugeot started as a Coffee Grinders (they will make heaven) while Vauxhall was a shipbuilding company.
Yes, I know of all these, but BMW’s transition from an aircraft manufacturing company to become a successful car maker is different from the rest in that it was a child of circumstance.
Before it started building cars, the original company was known as Rapp Motorenwerke specializing in building and maintaining aircraft engines for the German Air Force when the Otto Company went bankrupt in 1916, it became Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (Bavarian Engine Works) from there to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH.
BMW aircraft engines were known for high-altitude performance and fuel efficiency. But with Germany losing the First World War, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles banned German companies from producing both warplanes and engines for warplanes. This almost pushed BMW under until they diversified into building rail road brakes.
Then in 1923 the company launched the first BMW motorcycle, the R 32, and this was followed in 1933 with its first car, the BMW 303.
Many believe that the logo of BWM represents the spinning propeller; this is borne out of the company’s heritage as an aircraft manufacturing company. But that is not true even though BMW enjoys that linkage with their heritage. However, the quarters of the inner circle on the BMW logo display the colors of the State of Bavaria – white and blue.
The Bad Blood with Mercedes Benz
At the height of the cold war, BMW ran into rough waters and was almost bankrupt in late 1950’s when Mercedes Benz attempted a hostile takeover which was repelled by BMW shareholders who vowed that such could only happen over their dead bodies. Then help came with the takeover of BMW by Quandt. The rivalry with Mercedes Benz has remained till date.
The double Kidney Grille.
One of the most distinctive features of a BMW is the Kidney Grille. This is one of the features that people notice when they see a car and instantly recognize it as being a car manufactured by BMW. This grille is called a kidney grille and it has a longer history with this car brand than you may think as it was first introduced in 1933.
A BMW without a kidney grille is unthinkable. BMW says that for almost 90 years, the iconic BMW kidney grille has adorned every vehicle produced by BMW, but as new propulsion technologies and the elimination of the cooling function have opened up new design options for the front of the vehicle, this is now also having an impact on the design of the kidney-shaped grille.
Automobiles continue to be the main focus of BMW although they do also have a successful motorcycle division. However, they have not forgotten about their roots in the aerospace industry, even if they haven’t produced an airplane engine since 1945.
They continue to design the interiors for airplanes, including those that fly for Singapore Airlines. The interiors of these are so comfortable and luxurious that once you are inside a Singapore Airline plane it is unlikely that you will ever want to leave.
BMW is an example of how circumstances can push a company to greater glory.
Kelechi Deca writes from Lagos