The Pebble Beach concourse people put out a blog to celebrate BMW attaining its century. The following is from the blog.
Founded on March 7, 1916, airplane manufacturer Bayerische Fleugzeug-Werke AG would go on to become Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW), adopting the spinning propeller logo now known the world over in 1917. Regardless of the company’s name or logo, March 1916 is still observed as the birth of the brand, and in recognition of BMW’s centennial, the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will feature two classes devoted to the marque: 100 Years of BMW and BMW Motorcycles.
The early history of BMW is a complicated one, as the roots of the company can be traced back to Rapp Motoren Werke, founded in 1913, and Gustav Otto Flugmaschinenfabrik, already well established by this time. Rapp initially built engines for Gustav Otto’s airplanes, but in 1916 the two companies merged to become the Bayerische Flugzeuge Werke AG. In 1917, the company would become Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH, and in 1918 it would become a public company (AG, in German business lingo). Throughout the First World War, BMW and its predecessors concentrated on the production of aircraft engines, but in 1919 the manufacturing company was forced to cease aircraft engine production and destroy stocks of accumulated parts.
Instead, BMW turned its attention to designing engines for automobiles, trucks, motorcycles and even boats, and kept its factory busy producing brake assemblies for Berlin’s Knorr-Bremse AG. The relationship proved beneficial to both parties, and in 1920 Knorr-Bremse AG purchased BMW outright, ensuring the company’s ongoing growth, but at the expense of its former core business of building engines.
In 1922, Camillo Castiglioni, a former BMW investor, purchased the rights to the BMW brand, logo, and engine manufacturing business from Knorr-Bremse, somewhat ironically transferring everything back to his Bayerische Fleugzeuge-Werke AG. The “new” BMW AG would set up operations at Oberwiesenfeld airfield in Munich, the location of BMW’s headquarters and main automobile production facility to this day.
BMW’s first foray into four wheels was the 3/15, a licensed copy of the Austin 7 it acquired the rights to build by purchasing Dixi Automobil Werke AG in 1928. The license with Austin expired in 1932, forcing BMW to create an automobile of its own design, and its AM1 debuted just one month after the German company ended ties with Austin. A year later, BMW would introduce the 303, a larger and more luxurious automobile that would debut the kidney-shaped radiator grille, as well as BMW’s inline-six automobile engine.