BMW Celebrates New Beginning 50 Years Ago

BMW Celebrates New Beginning 50 Years Ago

For those interested in the history of BMW, today marks the 50th anniversary of the acceptance of a restructuring plan that saved the company.

BMW was in poor financial condition in the 1950s and by 1959 the BMW board was ready to sell the company to Daimler-Benz. At a shareholder meeting on December 9, 1959, as the board prepared to make its final decision, a few disgruntled shareholders managed to adjourn the meeting. One of those shareholders was Herbert Quandt. He initially favored the Daimler-Benz takeover but changed his mind after seeing the support BMW had with the trade unions and workers. Herbert Quandt quietly purchased shares in BMW (against the advice of his bankers) and was able to purchase a controlling interest in BMW.

Debut of the BMW 501 "Baroque Angels" at the Frankfurt Motorshow in 1951 didn't help BMW financially.
The tiny BMW Isetta auto/motorcycle crossover helped keep BMW alive in the 1950s.

After rejecting Daimler-Benz’s takeover bid in 1959, BMW adopted a rescue plan on November 30, 1960. Since then, the BMW story has been one of success. Since 2004, the BMW Group has been the world’s leading supplier of premium automobiles. Its workforce has grown from 6,900 in 1959 to over 96,000 employees today. At the same time, the number of vehicles sold has climbed from 42,000 at that time to a predicted total of more than 1.4 million automobiles (BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce) this year.

BMW's annual general meeting in November 1959.
Shareholders at the annual meeting.

The BMW Group will be celebrating its independence and the company’s continued success with a special ceremony at the Theresienhöhe in Munich on November 30, 2010 — the very same place where shareholders rejected the bid by Daimler-Benz to acquire BMW. “Herbert Quandt’s business instinct and his ability to make courageous decisions at that time set a new course for our company and secured BMW’s ability to control its own future,” said Chairman of the Supervisory Board of BMW AG, Prof. Dr. Ing. Joachim Milberg. “We benefit from having a shareholder structure with a family of entrepreneurs as our major shareholder. To this day, it has been a stabilizing factor.”

BMW shop chairman Kurt Golda with Herbert Quandt.

Speakers at tomorrow’s event include Supervisory Board Chairman, Prof. Dr. Milberg, and Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, as well as the Chairman of the General Works Council, Manfred Schoch. Representing the majority shareholder, Stefan Quandt will also discuss the historic relationship between the Quandt family and BMW.

“I consider it a privilege that we are able to make decisions from a long-term perspective, in the interests of all our stakeholders and in partnership with our workforce” noted Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Dr. Ing. Nobert Reithofer.

The course for future success was set in 2007 with Strategy Number ONE. “This strategy was introduced well before the financial and economic crisis and has been systematically implemented over the past three years. It laid the foundation for the upturn we are currently experiencing,” according to the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of BMW AG. New models enjoying success today, such as the BMW X1 and the MINI Countryman, were also decided upon in 2007.

The slogan “Sheer driving pleasure” originates from 1964 and still holds true for all BMW brand models. “Today, BMW is a brand that combines dynamic performance and efficiency like no other. And that will apply in the future, also, regardless of the type of drive train under the bonnet,” commented Reithofer. “It also has to do with the people who work at BMW. Besides their high level of skill and dedication, they also have a strong identification with the company,” as Milberg pointed out.

BMW's "new class" of cars such as the BMW 1500 turned the company around in the 1960s.

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