BMW turns 100, taking new roads like car-sharing
GERMAN luxury carmaker BMW threw a lavish 100th birthday party yesterday, looking back at its often troubled history and forward as it seeks to adapt to the age of personal mobility.
In its home city of Munich, the iconic headquarters towers as a source of pride while its vast plant, offices and museum are the city's main private employer, with 41,000 staff.
Since its World War I beginnings, the company has grown into a giant with plants in 14 countries, more than 116,000 employees and 80 billion euros (S$121 billion) in annual sales.
BMW today makes cars and motorcycles and its brands also include Rolls-Royce and Mini.
Leading its rival, Daimler-Benz, in units sold and with giant Volkswagen damaged by the emissions scandal, BMW remains in pole position at the high end of the auto industry.
The auto giant started life in far more troubled times - on March 7, 1916, making aircraft engines as Germany's Bavarian Aircraft Factory.
After WWI, when defeated Germany was forbidden from manufacturing aircraft, it renamed itself Bayerische Motoren Werke (Bavarian Engine Factory) in 1922.
After producing its first motorcycle in 1923, BMW began making cars in 1928. During the 1930s, it started on its own designs, such as the 326 limousine and 328 roadster.
As the Nazis came to power, BMW again became involved in armament efforts, once more building aircraft engines.
From 1939, it used forced labour from concentration camps - one of BMW's darkest chapters, which it began to open up about only in the 1980s.
At the end of WWII, with Germany in ruins, the company survived by making household utensils. It resumed motorcycle production in 1948 and car making in 1952.
In 1959, the group was about to be taken over by Daimler-Benz but a group of shareholders rebelled.
One of them, Herbert Quandt, came to BMW's rescue, investing massively in the firm.
The Quandt family remains BMW's biggest shareholders, with a stake of 47 per cent.
As tech giants such as Google and Apple are eyeing the personal mobility market, the company launched its BMWi division in 2011, which also offers services like car-sharing platform DriveNow.