BMW, or Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, is a German multinational corporation which produces luxury vehicles and motorcycles. The company was founded in 1916 as a manufacturer of aircraft engines, which it produced from 1917 until 1918 and again from 1933 to 1945.
BMW's business activities are divided into four segments: Automotive, Motorcycles, Financial Services, and Other Entities. BMW is one of the best-selling luxury automakers in the world. The company has significant motorsport history, especially in touring cars, sports cars, and Formula 1, where its former subsidiary BMW Sauber competed.
In 2015, BMW was the world's twelfth-largest producer of motor vehicles, with 2,279,503 vehicles produced. The company has significant motorsport history, especially in touring cars, sports cars, and Formula 1, where it currently competes as BMW Sauber.
BMW's origins can be traced back to three separate German companies: Rapp Motorenwerke, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, and Automobilwerk Eisenach. The history of the name itself begins with Rapp Motorenwerke, an aircraft engine manufacturer. In April 1917, following the departure of the founder Karl Friedrich Rapp, the company was renamed Bayerische Motorenwerke GmbH. This company was renamed again in 1922 to Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH.
In July 1917, the company was renamed Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG, or BFW. Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG was created in 1918 by merging the aircraft businesses of Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto. The merger was followed by the immediate merger of the new company with the engine manufacturer, Rapp Motorenwerke, which had itself been formed in 1916 by Karl Rapp and Max Friz.
BFW's logo was a simple circle with the letters "BFW" inside. However, the company was not able to survive the economic turmoil of the post-World War I period and in 1922, it was forced to seek protection from its creditors. In 1923, the creditors sold the company to the industrialist Camillo Castiglioni, who renamed it to BMW AG (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG).
The first car produced by BMW was the Dixi, based on the Austin 7 and licensed from the Austin Motor Company in Birmingham, England. BMW's first aircraft engine was the BMW IIIa inline-six liquid-cooled engine of 1918, much preferred for its high-altitude performance. With German rearmament in the 1930s, the company again began producing aircraft engines for the Luftwaffe. Among its successful World War II engine designs were the BMW 132 and BMW 801 air-cooled radial engines, and the pioneering BMW 003 axial-flow turbojet, which powered the tiny, 1944–1945–era jet-powered "emergency fighter", the Heinkel He 162 Spatz.
After World War II, BMW's motorcycle business was separated and became an independent company, BMW Motorrad. The company continued to produce engines for other companies, including aircraft, until 1950, when it entered the automobile market with the BMW 501 luxury saloon.
In 1959, BMW opened a plant in the United States in South Carolina, its first factory outside Germany. The plant is responsible for producing BMW X5 and X3 sports activity vehicles and X6 and X4 sports activity coupes.
BMW has a long history of motorsports involvement, including touring cars, sports cars, and Formula 1. BMW's involvement in racing dates back to the 1920s, when the company was still known as BFW. Some of BMW's famous racing cars include the BMW 328, which