While the history of the car is a story for another day, the fact is that the automotive industry is an old and complex one. And, with old industries, you get a few overlaps on the way. One of the main overlaps you tend to get with the automotive industry is manufacturers acquiring other car manufacturers.
When you look into the automotive industry, you might be surprised to discover that two seemingly unrelated car manufacturers are actually linked via ownership. For example, did you know that BMW own the Rover Group?
BMW are a car manufacturer that own several brands under the umbrella of BMW. While these car brands maintain their own separate identity they are all owned by BMW.
In this article, we look at a brief history of BMW, who they used to own, and who they own now.
Below we see how the BMW brand is vital to BMW.
A brief history of BMW
Firstly, let’s have a quick look at the history of BMW.
BMW started as a merger of two different companies, both of which manufactured aeroplane engines. However, aeroplane production was halted under the Treaty of Versailles, so they instead turned their attention to industrial engines and motorcycles.
BMW purchased Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, an automobile company, in 1929 and it is then that they started producing cars. They originally produced cars under the Dixi brand until they moved to six-cylinder luxury and sports cars.
After the Second World War and the subsequent Soviet Occupation, BMW was struggling to stay afloat. This was due to the slow post-war market. Instead, they started producing bicycles, pots and pans. This continued until 1955 when they went back to making cars under the pre-war designs. However, sales were low and they weren’t profitable. BMW was about to be sold to Daimler-Benz but Herbert Quandt was convinced to purchase a controlling interest in the company.
This era brought about the BMW New Class and the BMW New Six. These cemented BMW as a manufacturer and solidified their identity as producing sports sedans. Cars in the new class included 1500, 1600 and 1800.
The New Six followed the New Class and consisted of full-size luxury sedans and GT Coupes. These included the E3 and the E9. These classes helped BMW become the automobile giant it is today and set the ground for the acquisition of many other brands.
When did BMW acquire the Rover Group?
BMW bought the British Rover Group in 1994 and owned it until 2001.
They bought the Rover Group from British Aerospace and consisted of Rover, Mini and Land Rover. They also acquired the rights to dormant brands such as Austin, Morris, Riley, Triumph and Wolseley. BMW bought the Rover Group for £800 million and caused quite the stir in the House of Commons. The name changed from the Rover Group to BMW (UK) Holdings Limited. It should be noted that initially, BMW only bought an 80% stake in the company as Honda held the remaining 20%. However, they subsequently sold their share to BMW and terminated a long-standing alliance they had with the Rover Group/British Leyland.
However, the venture was unsuccessful. BMW found it difficult to reposition Rover alongside its own products, not to mention the constant change of marketing strategies Rover went through. In the six years, BMW owned the Rover Group, it was marketed as a premium automaker, a mass-market automaker, a division of BMW and an independent unit.
And so, in 2000, BMW sold Land Rover to Ford Motor Company for £2.4billion. They did, however, retain the rights to Mini, Rover and Triumph.
BMW continue to make Minis today and it’s thought that BMW kept Mini due to their loyal following and iconic reputation. Owning the brand has also allowed BMW to target those who enjoy their quirky looks and British values. It is thought that the bankruptcy of the Rover Group cost BMW fifteen billion Marks. Other marques, such as MG, were purchased by the Phoenix Consortium and continued to trade as the MG Rover group.
The Rover marque now belongs to TATA Motors, who purchased the rights when they purchased Jaguar and Land-Rover.
BMW vs. Volkswagen; The battle for Rolls-Royce
Don’t let it be said that the Automotive industry is free of drama. In 1998, Rolls-Royce and Bentley were put up for auction.
It was assumed that BMW would buy Rolls-Royce. This was because BMW had been supplying engines and parts to Rolls-Royce for some time so it made sense that BMW would acquire the rights to Rolls-Royce. However, this was not the case.
BMW was outbid by Volkswagen for both Rolls-Royce and Bentley. However, due to the relationship BMW and Rolls-Royce had, BMW was able to procure some of the Rolls-Royce trademarks, including the logo and the brand name, from Volkswagen.
And so the brands were at an impasse. Volkswagen had the rights to the production but not the logo or the brand name. BMW, on the other hand, had the logo and the name but no production rights. BMW’s contract to supply engines and components to Rolls-Royce allowed them to cancel the contract with just 12 months notice. This meant Volkswagen would be unable to re-engineer Rolls-Royce and Bentley vehicles to use other engines in this short time period. So Volkswagen and BMW entered negotiations.
They agreed that Volkswagen would sell BMW the Spirit of Ecstasy and the grille shape trademarks if BMW agreed to continue supplying engines and components until 2003.
Volkswagen produced Rolls-Royce branded vehicles until 2003 and in this time, BMW built their new Rolls-Royce headquarters in Goodwood, West Sussex. It was under BMW’s ownership that Rolls-Royce launched the Phantom.
In return, Volkswagen took ownership of Bentley.
It was announced in 2015 that Rolls-Royce was to produce their own SUV. It is expected that this will be launched in 2017 as a 2018 model.
Who does BMW own?
As of 2017, BMW own Mini and Rolls-Royce. Naturally, these three separate marques continue to be marketed as separate brands but share technology and sometimes even engines.
What do the next 100 years look like for BMW?
Hopefully, this has cleared a few things up about what other car manufacturers BMW own. While they don’t quite have the empire their German rival Volkswagen do, they still have two very successful, and different, marques. You can check out our latest BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce reviews here.