What does BMW stand for? The fascinating history of a loved brand

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Long, long ago, specifically in March 1916, a company that makes engines for aircraft was founded in the city of Munich in the state of Bavaria in the south of Germany in Europe. The company went by the name, Bayerische Flugzeug Werke (BFW). That name was changed to Bayerische Motoren Werke in 1917. In English, that is Bavarian Motor Works (also BMW). And so was the acronym born. That acronym has gone on to become loved and respected around the world.

Bavaria was a financial and industrial state. BMW started out making airplane engines and later pivoted to making railway brakes and built-in motors from 1918, and then to making motorcycles in 1920. The first BMW motorcycle hit the market in 1923. Eight years later, the brand name was getting widely known for making automobiles. Today, the name is synonymous with high quality, high performance cars.


When was BMW founded?

Officially, the founding date of the company is March 16, 1916, though the brand name that we know and love today wasn’t coined until 1917.

The company has since grown and spread its tentacles fairly widely. Today, the BMW Group includes: BMW, MINI (acquired as part of the Rover Group but retained after the group was sold off), Rolls-Royce (rights to the Rolls-Royce name acquired from Vickers Plc), and BMW Motorrad (the subsidiary that makes motorcycles).

In addition, it is part of the consortium that acquired and now owns HERE Technologies, a company that provides platform and location services, as well as self-driving technology to its partners. HERE was originally known as Nokia Maps before the acquisition in 2015, and before it’s stint with Nokia, it was Known as Navteq from 1985 to 2007.

In 2021, China was the largest sales market for the group, accounting for 33.6% of total sales. The United States was second (14.6%), and Germany, its home base, was the third largest market for the brand (10.6%).

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