There are a few luxurious hallmarks of success that most people desire. Things like a quality wardrobe, a spacious home, and a nice car top the list; BMW has long been a representation of success in automobile form, and its reputation has yet to falter.
The BMW Group is a German company that encompasses several luxury auto brands: BMW, Mini, and Rolls-Royce. Its cars are known for both high performance and sleek design, a huge factor in their nearly universal desirability.
With an eye on progress and sustainability, BMW continuously seeks new ways to set manufacturing trends that help shape the entire industry.
A Century of Experience
In 1916 and 1917 respectively, Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto founded the companies that would eventually form BMW just a year later. The famous BMW emblem was created around the same time, and features colors of the company’s homeland.
The company relocated to Munch in 1922, where the headquarters and main plant are still stationed today, nearly 100 years later, and after much turmoil during the mid-century.
Though BMW is famous for producing cars, it had actually never put out entire vehicles until 1923. Even then, the first full BMW vehicle was a motorcycle, not a car. The design of the BMW R 32 (the company’s first motorcycle) hasn’t changed much since its conception, and is quite similar to the design used today. 5 years later, BMW began producing its first automobile car.
During World War II, BMW primarily manufactured aircraft engines, often utilizing forced labor in an unsavory moment of the company’s history—but one they own up to. Post-war reconstruction proved difficult for BMW since they had been classified as a supplier for the German government, but by 1951 they were back to producing high powered, visually stunning cars.
Over the next 40 years, BMW continues to release new models of cars and motorcycles, in addition to opening a steady stream of new plants. By 1994, BMW had crossed the pond and opened its first American plant.
Since then, BMW has acquired several other luxury brands, including the two others it currently controls: Mini and Rolls-Royce, an even more exclusive luxury brand.
Now, BMW joins the most progressive car brands by implementing electric cars, largely considered the future of the automobile industry as more and more consumers search for sustainable modes of transportation.
Fighting for Dominance in Luxury
The luxury auto field is a crowded one, so BMW has plenty of other companies with which to contend. However, the most major of these competitors are two other German-engineered brands: Audi and Mercedes Benz.
One of the biggest reasons that these three brands so often clash is that they rank similarly in many minds—they’re the brainchildren of the same place, they each have powerful engines and pleasing designs, and they’re all recognized as status symbols. What’s more, each of these companies offer basic models that are more affordable than they have been in previous years, and much more affordable than cars that cater to the uppermost echelons of society.
These three manufacturers account for a whopping 80% of total luxury car sales, with BMW performing the highest globally. In the U.S., however, BMW trails Mercedes Benz by an average of just a few thousand cars sold every month.
Both Audi and Mercedes Benz have been producing cars since the early 1900s, so the sense of competition between these brands is not a modern development.
When it comes to the numbers, BMW is the clear winner in the luxury market. With a revenue of $111.5 billion compared to Audi’s $75.4 billion and Mercedes Benz’s $26.8 billion, the BMW group is far outcompeting its longtime rivals.
Leaning on Pop Culture and Nostalgia
BMW has enjoyed a number of celebrity endorsements over the years, most of them professional athletes like Natalie Coughlin. Sports cars are a natural product for athletes to endorse, because who better to speak to the physical capabilities of a machine than some of the most physically gifted people on Earth?
However, model and influencer Gigi Hadid became the latest star to grace a BMW ad in 2016. This was a departure from BMW’s previous system of choosing athletes as spokespeople.
Lately, BMW has gotten clever in marketing their certified pre-owned vehicles. To increase the visibility of this part of their business, the company has chosen to recycle old ads that were new when the pre-owned models they’re marketing were new. They have updated the ads with new commentary, but this is a smart cost-cutting plan that speaks to a snappy company character.
An Industry in Transition
As sustainability becomes the name of the game, BMW has suffered for taking what some label as too cautious an approach when jumping into the electric car industry. In fact, this caution is said to be the reason that the BMW CEO stepped down in early July of 2019.
Now it remains to be seen what sort of visionary BMW will bring in to take the helm of the company and guide it into more progressive waters. Having invested $1 billion into developing charging systems and ride sharing in a strategic partnership with Daimler, it seems that BMW is running out of time to throw its weight behind the new evolutions in the auto industry.
Still Perched Near The Top
According to Forbes, BMW ranks 21st on its list of the world’s most valuable brands in 2019. With a purported brand value of $29.8 billion, the company saw a 5% loss in value from 2018. While this stutter step could speak to a larger decline for BMW, it’s more likely that the company simply needed some time to recalibrate in this evolving landscape.
With a storied past that led it to global success, it’s likely that BMW will be around to supply the lucky few with luxury cars for centuries to come.