Bavarian Motor Werks
The next portion of my research takes me to Munich, the capital of Bavaria. This city is home to the third largest population in all of Germany and is one of the most affluent economic centers in Europe. It is also one of the most interesting cities in Germany due to its long and rich history. The area was ruled by the same royal family, the Wittelsbach family, for over 700 years. Some of the history I will highlight in this blog as it pertains to my Magellan Project. However, one key component of the city as to why it pertains to my research is one automobile company that calls the city its home, BMW.
Below is a brief history of the company.
Bavarian Motor Werks has called Munich home since it was founded in 1916. It had a few changes in management as well as merges with other companies, but eventually settled established its main plant in Munich in 1922. Initially, the motor company started out building airplane engines. It was a small business in the beginning, but was able to grow rapidly with the help of one engine design. During WWI, the military of Germany was looking for a new engine which could take their planes to higher altitudes. BMW presented an engine design which could accomplish this feat, and the orders came pouring in for the manufacturing of the engine. There was however, one small problem, not a single engine had actually been built or tested. The design was just that, a design on paper with no prototype. The company scrambled to find workers and means of production to fulfill the request. With the state controlling all industries during the time of war, BMW was able to quickly gain the means of production and skilled workers necessary, and thus rapidly expand. This initial influx of business set the company off with a running start and it did not slow down from there.
The next major accomplishment for the company was the production of the BMW R 32 Motorrad in 1923. The bike marked the beginning of commercial business for everyday consumers. The successful sale of the Motorrad would prove vital in the company's success. Later in the decade around 1928, the first automobile of BMW was produced with the origin of the car coming from Austin Motor Company. During the period leading into the rule of the Third Reich as well as the beginning of World War Two, BMW's technicians and resources became vital for the production of airplane engines as well as military automobiles. The government aided in expanding the company through forced merges and new production plants. During the war, BMW was forced to comply with Hitler's demands for a wartime economy including the use of forced labor. This had the affect of an even greater increase in industrial power for the company due to its role as the main aircraft supplier of Nazi Germany.
Post WWII BMW
Following the demise of the Third Reich, allied forces moved into Germany. One of their first tasks was to dismantle the war machine the nation had become. This included destroying the capability of producing war machines. As a result, the allies ordered Bavarian Motor Werks to destroy the main components of their airplane motors as well as prevent their plants from producing them. This crippled the company. Every airplane engine had to be dismantled to the point it could not function. Every plant, if it were not already decimated by bombs, was broken down so as to prevent it from mass producing means of war. BMW was crippled and in a crisis. To compensate for the financial instability the company was now in, they began producing motorcycles again. However, another problem emerged. Their detailed plans and skilled technicians were trapped under Russia rule in Western Germany. The first motorcycles built after the war were actually based off of the original Motorrad produced because its design and prototype were the only available resources for the engineers to build off of. After a short amount of time, the company was given permission by allied forces to produce engines once again, but restricted to only commercial automobiles. The BMW of today was now taking hold.
The company quickly gained fame through their swift motorcycles which took top spots in races around the world. This fame was important because the first production cars did not succeed. BMW’s factories had the capability of making some of the most powerful cars orldwide. However, not many people could afford these cars. Thus, the first models were sold to only the top class, including Elvis Presley, and the company realized it needed to change in order to stay afloat. The board actually considered selling the company due to the debt early on. The first successful model actually used a motorcycle engine. It was all the company had on hand and could afford. From here, the business thrived. More and more classes of cars covering the needs of everything a consumer would want came flying off the line. What once was a small company with a few designs for airplane engines was now competing with the largest automobile manufacturers in the world. With its new founded economic prowl, the company began looking towards the future. They not only wanted to be leading sales in the world, but innovation as well.
BMW Welt is the place BMW reveals to the public the future of transportation. The showcase includes the latest models of each class, but also includes a new exhibit. This exhibit is dedicated to the new, all electric class of vehicles. BMW is continually shaping the next line of car models based on the ever changing needs of society. The two models represent the difference in societal needs combined with the necessity to change. One is a luxury sports sedan with sleek and style. The other, an affordable, small size, and all electric vehicle for the average consumer. At the time I was at the complex, they were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the company with 100 feats of success over its history. This included various achievements which helped the company achieve its success in the industry today. What I found even more interesting was the next showcase being constructed which highlights the next 100 automobiles to be built in the future. I had the chance to see one of these cars as part of a display in the museum. It was a car made with a nylon type fabric instead of a metal body. The car could actually alter the shape of it. The capabilities included, but are not limited to, spoiler levels of the back, opening and closing the center hood to expose the engine, movable lighting, and altercations of the interior. As the representative of the company spoke of the car, she highlighted that this was in fact never meant to be driven, but instead was a project to show what is capable. Ideas have to start somewhere, and innovation only improves past technologies. This car is an example of how the next generation of transportation is born.
This company has an insatiable desire to shape the future for the betterment of the consumer, as well as society. This is the reason for the production of the all electric class. The cars were built with functionality, necessity, innovation, and style in mind. The large batteries required to power the cars adds a lot of weight onto the vehicles. To compensate for this, the material is made out of woven fibers tightly knit together to create an unbreakable material stronger than steel known as carbon fiber. The sleek look and design the cars have, one could never tell the cars were designed for functionality and innovation as opposed to power, performance, and style. This also applies to the new models being produced. The world demands automobiles which are more efficient while using fewer resources to deliver more power. BMW has lived up to this challenge and continues to do so in luxury. The next challenge the world will provide remains unclear. But, BMW is ready because of its constant desire to change the car of today. Is a vehicle made of nylon which can change its shape necessary to commute to work or drive across the country? Of course not, and the car looks just as ridiculous as one might picture. But one day, this technology could come in vital for producing the new era of automobiles, and BMW is ready to meet this challenge. The future is bright for Bavarian Motor Werks, and the German country it calls home.