BMW is one of the most respected names in the automotive world thanks to its carefully curated image as the producer of “the ultimate driving machine.” The company is one of the premier aspirational brands in the car world and has become an internationally-renowned symbol of luxury, performance, and status. Despite the high level of recognition and desirability associated with BMW, there are many misconceptions about the German automaker and just as many fascinating bits of trivia that could help you win a few gentlemanly wagers at your next ‘Cars and Coffee’ event.
The Ultimate Piloting and Riding Machine
While BMW is currently known as the purveyor of “the ultimate driving machine,” a slogan adopted in the midst of the 2002’s massive popularity with enthusiasts during the ’70s, the company was not always known for producing four-wheeled vehicles. BMW was originally founded in 1916 as an aircraft engine manufacturer but expanded its endeavors to the world of motorcycles in 1923. BMW did not actually begin manufacturing cars until 1929.
What Does BMW Stand For?
BMW stands for Bavarian Motor Works in English, but some purists prefer to pay proper homage to the motherland, formally referring to the company as Bayerische Motoren Werke.
Is the BMW Roundel Supposed to be a Plane Propeller?
The BMW roundel is one of the most instantly recognizable corporate logos in the world, but there is a misconception surrounding its meaning and origins. Due to BMW’s roots as a builder of aviation engines, many people assume that the roundel depicts a spinning propeller with a blue sky in the background. However, the blue and white emblem actually references the Bavarian flag, hence the particular shade of blue used on BMW’s roundel.
BMW Was Almost Owned by Rival Mercedes-Benz
BMW struggled in a post-WW2 landscape and the company’s financial struggles nearly led to a takeover by Mercedes-Benz in 1959. Herbert Quandt invested heavily in the fledgling company, saving it from the Daimler takeover and ensuring that the two automakers would become fierce rivals. What would have happened had Daimler taken ownership of BMW? Would they have relegated BMW to their sporting brand while maintaining Mercedes as a luxury marque? Would they have slotted BMW as an entry-level offering in the corporate umbrella, keeping Mercedes reserved for true luxury cars? It’s anyone’s guess, but the motoring world is a better place due to the rivalry and competition that exist as a result of Mercedes not taking over BMW, decades ago.
BMW Is Still A Family-Owned Company
Herbert Quandt saved BMW from a Daimler-Benz takeover in 1959 and passed the company on to his heirs. As of the spring of 2014, the Quandt family owns nearly half of BMW’s stock, making it a rarity in the corporate-dominated automotive world.
What Kind of Car Did Steve Urkel Drive?
BMW is commonly associated with luxurious sport sedans, but the company was not always known for making “the ultimate driving machine” and status-driven SUVs. Remember that odd little bubble car driven by Steve Urkel? Yeah, that was actually a BMW Isetta, one of the German company’s iconic micro cars from the ’50s.
BMW’s Humble Origins
BMW’s first car, the 1929 Dixi, was based on the Austin 7 and built through a licensing agreement. The BMW Dixi was a rudimentary car, a far cry from the high-tech image associated with modern BMW and much more humble than the grand Mercedes models being built in the late-’20s. During the ’50s, BMW was selling the plebeian Isetta bubble car and it was not until the ’70s that the German car company became an aspirational brand. Even the enthusiast-minded 2002 model of the ’70s was more of a sporting car than a luxury car. For the most part, BMW did not start incorporating luxury elements into its cars until the ’80s when the yuppies flocked to the Bavarian cars in droves and even then the level of luxury in BMW’s models paled in comparison to the refined cruisers from Mercedes-Benz.
BMW Made Diesel Engines for Lincoln
During the late-’70s, Mercedes made an impact on the American luxury market with its diesel-powered 240D and 300D models, a move that left American luxury car companies scrambling for fuel-efficient engines to fight off the German onslaught of Stuttgart taxis. Lincoln contacted the brass at BMW and sourced the German company’s 2.4-liter inline-six cylinder diesel engine for use in the Mark VII luxury coupe. Sales were dismal, with only a few hundred sold in its two years of production, making it a truly obscure piece of transatlantic motoring history.
GM Transmissions in The Ultimate Driving Machine
Lincoln sourcing BMW diesel engines is a pretty shocking bit of car trivia, but what If I told you that BMW sourced GM transmissions for years? Select models of the 3-Series, 5-Series, X3, and X5 were equipped with transmissions from General Motors. Yup, but don’t let your Europhile tendencies cloud your opinion of this move. General Motors might have many flaws but they do produce some of the most reliable transmissions in the world.
BMW Influence on Range Rover and Rolls Royce
BMW’s ownership of Rolls Royce resulted in BMW-designed engines finding their way into the legendary British luxury saloons beginning in the late-’90s. This was not the first British marque to feel the influence of the Bavarian automaker. BMW owned Land Rover from 1994 to 2000, before selling the British off-road icon to Ford, and supplied BMW engines for use in the company’s flagship Range Rover SUV.
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