Manufacturer Spotlight: BMW, airplanes to supercars

James Raia

The BMW legacy has taken the manufacturer from airplanes to supercars.

With its legacy dating nearly 110 years to manufacturing airplanes, BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) is renowned for its luxury vehicles that provide a unique combination of driving pleasure and performance.

The BMW legacy has taken the manufacturer from airplanes to supercars.
The BMW legacy has taken the manufacturer from airplanes to supercars.

It took 18 years after BMW began in Munich, Germany as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG for the company to transition from airplanes to cars. The Dixi, the first four-wheel effort, was a hit. It joined by the Type 328 roadster as the brand’s defense against the Depression. The two-seater was hugely successful on the racing circuit with more than 120 victories during a five-year tenure ending in 1940.

Following WWII, BMW stretched its ever-advancing success with models like the 501 and 502, luxury and roomy sedans. But the carmaker didn’t rest. It’s best-selling vehicle in the 1950s was the Isetta, a microcar now primarily showcased at vintage car shows.

As the decades rolled along, BMW’s clout grew with a series of successful sports car and sedans, including the current numbered and M series. From entry level luxury cars to high-end plush sedans to SUVs, BMW is an automotive standard for success among young urban professionals.

BMW’s motto is “The Ultimate Driving Machine.” And while selling vehicles to a young, successful audience is commendable, the carmaker has also remained loyal to its racing pedigree with high-performance, exotic cars like the BMW i8.

As a 2-door coupe with a turbocharged 1.8-liter engine that produces 362 horsepower, the 2016 BMW i8 represents the future of multi-tasking automobiles. It’s an economic supercar (really!), and it’s also a hybrid with an electric model mated with a lithium-ion battery stack.

The BMW i8 could easy be considered an automotive contradiction. It’s rated at 30 mph as a supercar with a low, sleek and wide profile and “scissor” doors that vertically straight. Its top speed is 155 mph, but it can also travel 15 miles as an electric-only vehicle. And its battery pack can be fully recharged in 90 minutes. It can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds. Nothing about the BMW i8 is subtle. It has an environmentalist persona with a simultaneous desire for speed.

Article Last Updated: January 13, 2017.

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