Founded in 1916, BMW is a German luxury brand. The company itself is the smallest of the three German manufacturers, but has vied for luxury leadership in North America. Every sport utility vehicle BMW makes is built at its South Carolina facility and shipped globally. Its remaining vehicles are imported from Europe.
Known formally as Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, BMW rose out of the ashes of World War II and entered the modern era by building its first post-war cars in 1951. In 1972, BMW launched its BMW Motorsport GmbH subsidiary, winning races and establishing the structure for launching its performance M Series line.
BMW Motorsport built on the company’s earlier success with motorcycle racing and was involved in Formula Two racing from the early 1950s to the mid-1980s. In the early 1980s, BMW entered Formula One, dropped out in 1987 then returned 10 years later in partnership with Williams Grand Prix Engineering. In 2001, Williams won four races and several more in subsequent years.
By 2006, BMW partnered with Sauber Motorsport AG to launch its own team and maintained that relationship for four years before moving on to the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters in 2012 where it promptly registered its first DTM win in 20 years. BMW won the manufacturer’s championship in 2012 and 2013, and also had the champion’s car in 2012 and 2014.
BMW’s chief North American rivals are Mercedes-Benz and Lexus. All three brands routinely battle for top sales honors in the United States. Audi, Acura, Cadillac, Lincoln, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Infiniti also compete.
The brand’s naming convention is identified as Series for its car lines, composed of sedans, coupes, convertibles and wagons. Those lines range from the entry-level 2 Series up to the full-size BMW 7 Series. In recent years, BMW split its benchmark-setting 3 Series into 3 and 4 Series model lines, assigning sedans and wagons to the 3 Series and coupes and convertibles to the 4 Series.
Every crossover SUV name begins with an X followed by a number. The current BMW SUV lineup includes the X1, X3, X4, X5 and X6.
The brand’s roadster is known as the BMW Z4 and its line of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles begins with a small “i” and is followed by a number, e.g., i3 and i8. BMW i models compete with the Tesla Model S, Lexus GS Hybrid and the Cadillac ELR, among others.
The transcendent M models are composed of sedans, coupes, convertibles and utility vehicles. These models range from the stunning M1 mid-engined super car and M635CSi coupe of the 1980s to the BMW M3 and X6 M built today. Bold styling, twin-turbo engines, agile handling and sport-tuned suspensions define the current BMW M.