We all know that BMW (Bavarian Motor Works (or Bayerische Motoren Werke to be more precise)) designs and builds “the ultimate driving machine.” But, sure as any other, BMW is a company that had a beginning, and things weren’t always so “ultimate.” How did the highly renowned BMW come to be? And what gives them the right to call their cars ultimate, anyway?
In the beginning, there was the Rapp Motorenwerke Company, which designed and produced (mainly) aircraft engines in Germany. The company was founded in 1913 by a man named Karl Rapp and his business partner Julius Auspitzer. Rapp took care of the operations side of the business and was the lead designer for the company’s engines. Rapp’s engines had relatively little commercial success, though they were known for being unique from the other airplane engines of the day (which were designed by the likes of Mercedes and Benz, before Mercedes-Benz). Despite its poor performance with more traditional buyers, the Rapp Motorenwerke Company found huge success when the Bavarian Army Administration began using its facilities to produce engines for World War I. This was the direct result of intense lobbying by a man named Fran Josef Popp, who would later be rewarded by becoming BMW’s first General Director. Popp also brought in an engineer named Max Friz, who pretty much scrapped Rapp’s obsolete, poorly performing engine designs and made the highly successful “type III” design. Mr. Rapp was accused of holding the company back by the company’s partners, who then decided to terminate his contract. They needed a new name for the company, so bam, boom, bang, the Bayerische Motoren Werke Company was created.
BMW wasn’t out of the woods yet, though. The Treaty of Versailles, which stopped Germany from rearming after WWI, placed huge restrictions on aircraft engine production. So, the company adapted and began to produce motorcycles in 1923 and then automobiles in 1928. When Germany began rearmament in the 1930s, however, BMW again landed extremely lucrative aircraft engine production deals with the administration. This held the company afloat until 1959, when financial hardship forced the shareholders to meet and discuss the company’s future. Refusing to give up and liquidate all assets, BMW pushed into the booming automobile industry with renewed vision. BMW acquired new manufacturing rights to vehicle designs and even acquired an entire automobile company named Hans Glas. This transformation into a completely new company, as we all know today, paid off quite well for BMW. BMW grew immensely over the years and developed into one of the most renowned automobile manufacturers in the world.
So, why do they get to call their cars “ultimate” driving machines? I mean, other car companies have been at it just as long as BMW. Obviously, companies can (and often do) claim the superiority of their products. But BMW is a bit of a special case. According to Forbes, for two years in a row now, a global private consulting firm called Reputation Institute has named BMW the absolute most reputable company on the planet. That rank comes directly from the people—around 55,000 consumers in 15 markets worldwide participated in the study which asked about people’s feelings of trust, esteem, and admiration for different global companies. Trust in a company as a whole, more than the company’s product, says Reputation Institute, is how people decide to spend their money. BMW attributes their high rank to their long history of consistency and reliability with their stakeholders. So how much do you trust BMW? Perhaps, as they claim, BMWs really are the ultimate driving machine.