BMW is a popular brand today that manufactures automobiles, motorcycles and engines. While most people have heard of the German company, what few people probably know is that the company has faced many financial difficulties since its founding in 1916. BMW stands for “Bayerische Motoren Werke,” which means Bavarian Motor Works, and currently also produces the MINI.
In 1916, BMW grew out of the Rapp Motorenwerke company after they restructured. They mainly produced aircraft engines at the time, and would do so until 1918. Their engines were widely respected for their ability to function well in high-altitude flight. After WWI, BMW was forced to stop producing aircraft as part of the Versailles Armistice Treaty. While the plant was able to reopen in 1919, they instead designed engines for boats, cars, trucks, and autos, and also started designing brakes.
BMW got their major break in 1923, when they started to manufacture motorcycles and a major deal to develop aircraft engines for the Soviet Union guaranteed their success for the rest of the 20’s. Later in the decade, BMW began manufacturing cars, which they are probably most known for today. Their first car was the BMW 3/15. In 1931, BMW consultant Josef Ganz started work on the BMW AM1, a front mounted engine with rearwheel drive and independent wheel suspension. This marked their first major success in the automobile market.
Unfortunately hard times for BMW waited ahead, with the aftermath of the WWII. During WWII, the BMW plant had been completely destroyed. Even after rebuilding and recovering, BMW again faced financial difficulties in 1959, but bought the rights to make the Iso Isetta, a small Italian car, which would be powered by the German company’s motorcycle engine. This deal helped save the company.
The BMW logo consists of a circle separated into four quadrants of blue and white, surrounded by a black circle with the letters BMW at the top. In the 1920s, BMW explained that their logo was supposed to represent a spinning aircraft propeller, going back to BMW’s original product, aircraft engines. The white represents the propeller blades, and the blue the sky. However, initially the colors came from the Bavarian flag colors and the logo design was intended to look similar to the original logo of Rapp Motorenwerke.