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Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, commonly referred to as BMW, is an independently run automobile manufacturer originating from Germany. With its roots tracing back before World War I, the company now specializes in sport and luxury sedans, although it has recently entered the other markets as well. It remains one of a select few major car lines that are independent from a major company's ownership.
BMW originated with the ideas of Gustav Otto and Karl Rapp as an aircraft engine manufacturer. Gradually, with pressures from decreasing demand, shareholder weariness and new ownership, the company made its way into motorcycles and automobiles, with the first motorcycle, the R32, being produced in 1923. This formed the basis of what would become BMW Motorcycles.
1929 saw the production of BMW's first automobile, the BMW 3/15. The car weighed 882 pounds and had fifteen horsepower for a top speed of 75km/h.
Prior to World War II, the company also began to branch into sports cars, such as the BMW 328, produced from 1936 to 1940. During the war, the company had to cease both motorcycle and automobile developement, although the company continued to produce engines for Luftwaffe planes in addition to researching newer engine prototypes. With many factories ravaged from bombings and production halts forced by The Allies, BMW fell into near-obscurity after the war, not resuming its automobile production until 1952.
The company continued to struggle throughout the 1950s, and even considered selling the name to Daimler-Benz but met much opposition when considering the option. The company formed what would prove to be a strong reputation and foundation for years to come with the releas of both the BMW 700 and the BMW New Series, consisting of the 1500, 1600, 1800, and 2000. The very successful series began production in 1962 and continued into the next decade, when it was finally replaced by the still existing BMW 5 Series in 1972.
Success and Expansion
With financial concerns beginning to be eased from the New Series' good sales, the company released the BMW New Six in 1968, a line of large, high end luxury car consisting of six cylinder engines. The main purpose of the series was to compete with the very company they had considering selling to. The Benz portion of Daimler-Benz had long dominated the large luxury car market, and the New Six were BMW's response.
The New Series, although well performing, was replaced by the more profitable 5 Series in 1972. However, the company was still left with the problem of replacing the New Series coupes. While the New Six were still in their peak numbers, the sedans were starting to appear aged in the public eye. This led to the release of the BMW 3 Series in 1975. Soon after, the New Six were phased out and replaced with the BMW 7 Series.
Between 1970 and the early 1990s, the various BMW series' retained a body style similar to the previous model, with only slight visual alterations. Despite the insignificant changes, the car model seemed to consistently gain in popularity, with profitability and production increasing impressively when looked at over the two decade or more span.
From the late 1980s to the beginning of the 90s, BMW sought to innovate its model design, changing much of the series' previous, boxier styles into newer, sleeker chassis. The 7 Series underwent the first change in 1987, followed by the 5 Series in 1989. The biggest alteration occurred, however, in 1991, when the 3 Series was dramatically changed to a much sleeker look, with the two circular lights BMW had historically used now being contained within a larger rectangular prism. Despite the sleeker look, the car was criticized by some for being larger and heavier than the prior model. Regardless, the 1991 restructuring proved to be successful, and the model went on to sell in large numbers in both Europe and North America.
The series cars still remain in the current market, although model redesigns and engine improvements have been made. The light structure on the cars was reworked again in the early 2000s, again favoring a sleeker look with lights that curve up upon reaching the sides of the car.
In the 2000s, BMW began a series of expansions into non-traditional markets for the manufacturer. Beginning with the BMW Z3 roadster, the company continued to branch into larger areas, releasing the X3, X5,and X6 to compete with SUVs and Crossovers as well as the production of a smaller, 1 Series sedan.
First introduced in 1978, a racing division from BMW created a performance line models dubbed M series. Since the introduction, several lines of the original editions were upgraded and modified in sense of performance to be given an M-badge. Current line of M-Series cars are M1 (upcoming), M3 (coupe, sedan), M5, M6, X5M, X6M and M Coupe. Every model of their line has an M-badged model except for the 7-series. There however is a rumor that a M7 might be in the works.