BMW (Bayerische Motoren Werke AG) is one of the leading premium automakers in the world. Founded in 1916, the company started making automobiles in 1928. From the first model, the BMW Dixi 3/15 (1929), to the superb 319, 329, and 321, the years before World War II were full of elegant, yet sporty cars.
The most successful of them was the 328, a roadster that used lightweight alloys and a tubular space frame construction. It won the Mille Miglia in 1938 and 1940, the RAC Rally in 1939, and was first in its class at the 1939 Le Mans 24 Hours. However, BMW's main business still was aircraft manufacturing. It also produced motorcycles, with significant success.
After the war, BMW still held on to the idea of making luxury cars, like the 503 and 507 (1956). These were too expensive to produce, however, and even if stars like Elvis Presley loved them, the company was almost bankrupt in 1958. Fortunately, it decided to focus on producing the small Isetta microcar (1955), and the bigger and successful 507 (1959). This move saved the car business of the company.
BMW came back to sports cars in 1962, with the 3200 CS, signaling the end of an era. While it used obsolete technical solutions, its design inspired the subsequent and much more successful cars of the New Class, especially the 2000 C (1962) and 2000 CS (1965).
It was the BMW New Class models that made BMW a sports powerhouse in the sixties. The BMW 1500 small sedan (1962), followed by the 1800 (1963), sold enough units to make BMW profitable again, after 20 years of losses. In 1966, the company launched the 2000, a high-specced version of the 1800, which was a tremendous success for BMW.
At the other end of the range, the more affordable 02 Series (1502, 1602, 1802, 2002), a shortened version of the New Class sedans, also sold very well. The 2002ti managed to win the Nurburgring 24-hour race in 1970, with Hans Stuck at the wheel.
The seventies would be a defining period for BMW. The New Class sedans were replaced by the new 5 Series (E12, 1972), while the 02 Series were followed by the new 3 Series (E21, 1975). The New Six cars (BMW 2500, 2800, 3.0 S, 3.0 CS and others) marked BMW's return to full-size luxury automobiles. They were followed by the 7 Series in 1977 (BMW E23), the 6 Series in 1976 (BMW E24) and by the superb M1 (1978-1981), designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro.
Apart from the main product lines, BMW tried its hand at roadsters (Z1 and Z3), Grand Tour cars (BMW 8 Series, 1989), and SUVs (starting with X5, in 1999). The latter became a sales hit, spawning several other variants and crossovers (the X1 and X3, followed by the X6 and X4).
In the 2000s, BMW also completed its range with the compact 1 Series and the 5 Series GT, while in the 2010s the 2 Series and 4 Series catered to a more and more diverse public. The company also started its own electric cars range, the i brand, with the i3 city car and the i8 sports car.
Continuing to build on its motorsport aura (BMW is still one of the most celebrated brands in touring car racing), the company also developed its M line of cars, with some remarkable models like the M3 and the M5 being instant classics in their segments.
The next 100 years, as BMW hopes, are the brand's best.