Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, aka BMW, is a manufacturer of automobiles, motorcycles, and engines. The company was founded in Germany in 1916, and today it is considered to be one of the “Big Three” manufacturers of luxury vehicles in Germany. In addition to the main BMW line, it also owns the Mini badge and is the parent of Rolls-Royce. The company is publicly traded, and over half of its shares are free float (owned by public investors.)

BMW logo

The quartered circle BMW logo is probably meant to recall the image of a spinning propeller, and the colors are most likely related to the flag of Bavaria, although there is some controversy on this issue.


History of BMW

The history of BMW can be traced back to Rapp Motorenwerke (an aircraft manufacturing firm) and Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (BFW). Prior to the end of World War I, Rapp Motorenwerke had been primarily engaged in the business of designing and building aircraft engines. However, the Versailles Armistice Treaty placed severe restrictions on German industry at the time, and the company shifted focus to motorcycle production (in 1923) and automobiles (starting in 1928.)

Since BMW and its immediate predecessor had been engaged in the design of aircraft and motorcycle motors, the company looked to outside sources when it first entered the automobile market. This was a two step process that involved purchasing Automobilwerk Eisenach (which has been building automobiles with the Dixi name since 1904) and licensing the Austin 7 from the British Austin Motor Company. The result was BMW’s first car — the Dixi DA-1 3/15PS.

During World War II, BMW returned to the business of designing and manufacturing airplane engines, although the company returned to motorcycles and automobiles after the war. By the end of the 1950s, the company was in dire financial straits, and it looked like liquidation might be the only option. However, the shareholders decided to go back to the beginning, as it were, and license the rights to manufacture an economy car. This resulted in BMW licensing the rights to the Iso Isetta, which was modified to use a BMW-engineered motorcycle engine as a power plant. The relative success of this economy vehicle supported the company through tough economic times, and today the brand is one of the most well known luxury badges in the world.

Vital Data

Founded: Munich, Germany (1916)
Current headquarters: Munich, Germany
Yearly production: 1,861,828 automobiles (2012)
Employees: ~105,000
Owner: Publicly traded (~50 percent free float)
Subsidiaries: Rolls-Royce, DesignworksUSA

BMW Contact Information

North America

Phone: 800.831.1117

Mailing Address
BMW of North America, LLC
300 Chestnut Ridge Road
Woodcliff Lake, NJ

BMW Key Replacement

In California, call: 888-575-5397
Elsewhere in North America, contact your local BMW dealer

 BMW Financial Services

Phone: 800.578.5000

Mailing Address
BMW Financial Services
ATTN: Customer Correspondence
BOX 3608
Dublin, OH


JD Laukkonen

JD Laukkonen turned wrenches in the north end of Seattle for a decade, so he's no stranger to the inner workings of modern automobiles. He has worked as a freelance writer since closing his shop in 2007, and he currently covers automotive technology for

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