We all know they manufacture cars, but just how vast is the BMW Empire and how diversified is their portfolio?
Welcome to the 3rd and final installment of the Empire BMW series where we take a look at what makes the BMW Group one of the most successful companies in the world. Then, we throw in a dash of history for good measure and discuss the various companies that operate under the BMW umbrella as well as some of their strategic investments and programs that they operate.
Without further ado, let’s begin this week’s exploration of the empire that is BMW.
Although many know the fact that BMW has always been involved in racing in one shape or form, winning points as well as the hearts of their admirers, few know the work that BMW puts into its young driver-training program known as Formula BMW.
Known as a “junior” category in racing and acting as the first step out of kart racing and into car racing, Formula BMW is comprised of young talent from the age of 15 and up. Although there is no “set” max age, most drivers are between 15 and 18 years old. The single-seater formula cars used look similar to their much older brothers found in Formula 1, in the sense that, they run on open-wheeled slick tires and have aerodynamic wings that generate downforce. However, unlike in F1 where teams are free to experiment with certain aspects such as chassis design, engine management, or even bodywork, the Formula BMW cars are strictly controlled and no modifications may take place whatsoever. With that said, basic yet vital adjustments of the suspension, wing angles, gear ratios and brake balance are permitted. This means that in order to win, a young driver must rely solely on their sheer driver talent and skill.
Although BMW was involved in young driver training programs since 1998, the current formula was launched by BMW Motorsport back in 2001. This is the part where I would state that the winner of the Formula BMW series would be awarded a test seat in the BMW-Sauber Formula 1 car, however, BMW no longer competes in F1 since they withdrew from the series at the end of the 2009 season. What a shame not only for the young and talented drivers competing in Formula BMW, but also for us fans of BMW in F1.
Speaking of Formula 1, you might recognize some of the names listed below, all of which have competed in the Formula BMW series at some point:
- Sebastian Vettel
- Nico Rosberg
- Timo Glock
- Nico Hulkenberg
- Romain Grosjean
Oh yes, you read correctly. Sebastian Vettel. For our readers that are also F1 fans, this is a name they know very well. Why? As a 3 time Formula 1 World Champion (2010, 2011 and 2012) German born Sebastian Vettel is a force to be reckoned with. Moreover, at the time of this writing, he is also leading the 2013 F1 leaderboards in driver points. Doesn’t come as a surprise then to know that he also raced for the BMW-Sauber F1 Team alongside Polish driver and teammate Robert Kubica. The myriad of nationalities participating in Formula BMW is also impressive, thanks to the various Championships held throughout the world. They are:
- Germany & Europe
- Asia & Pacific
- United States & Americas
- United Kingdom
It’s good to know BMW strives to build “The Ultimate Driving Machine” but it’s also nice to know that they are trying to groom the talented and young aspiring drivers out there through programs such as Formula BMW.
We move from the open-wheeled, wind-in-your-helmet action of the Formula BMW series to the world of closed-cockpit, aero-laden not-afraid-to-ram-you touring car race series known as DTM.
DTM is a German acronym and stands for “Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters” or “German Touring Car Masters” and although Germany is its motherland, the series also hosts races at other venues throughout Europe. Disclosure: The history of DTM and all of its variants, evolutions and transformations is vast and expansive. So much so that it could indeed warrant a whole separate article solely dedicated to it. For the sake of pleasurable reading, we will focus solely on its most current iteration. I will however mention that the legendary E30 M3 competed within this series, at one point. I say this because one does not simply mention old school DTM racing, and not bring up the E30 M3.
How does BMW come into play? Well, in 2012, after a hiatus of 20 years, BMW Motorsport returned to the world of DTM racing with 3 teams, each team consisting of 2 drivers. Their return to DTM was received with welcoming arms by both fans of the brand as well as of the racing series. Armed with the E92 BMW M3 DTM seen here http://www.bmwblog.com/2011/07/16/world-debut-bmw-m3-dtm/ they brought the fight to rivals Audi and Mercedes-Benz. With a fairytale-like twist, BMW Motorsport proved to the world as well as their supporters and rivals that they still had the magic touch, winning the 2012 DTM Championship.
In 2013 to commemorate their 2012 victory, BMW launched the limited BMW M3 DTM Champion Edition model seen here http://www.bmwblog.com/2012/12/05/world-premiere-bmw-m3-dtm-champion-edition-model/. Not only that, but here’s a look at the launch of the 2013 DTM M3 that is currently competing in the 2013 Championship, which is already well underway. http://www.bmwblog.com/2013/04/06/bmw-motorsport-launches-its-cars-for-the-2013-dtm-season-at-bmw-welt/
With the return to DTM racing, BMW has entered the battle ring to fight amongst its German brethren. There is no better place to see a BMW, an Audi and a Mercedes go head-to-head-to-head in a white-knuckle brawl for the finish line. What’s more, BMW states that the technology, expertise and know-how learned on the DTM tracks make their way into the production BMW models that you and I can buy. Hopefully this means we will see the increase of carbon materials being incorporated into future models in order to reduce weight and increase structural rigidity.
If DTM was all about the old continent, then ALMS is all about the Americas. The American Le Mans Series or ALMS for short is a sports car racing series that is based in Braselton, Georgia and holds races at venues throughout the United States as well as Canada.
Since the introduction of ALMS in 1999, BMW Motorsport has built some iconic cars to race in various classes for this series. Cars that have reached automotive royalty status. Cars that are spoken of in hushed tones. Here are a few:
- BMW E92 M3 GT
- BMW V12 LMR
- BMW E45 M3 GTR
If you’re a racer, a fan or even a digital driver thanks to your Xbox or PlayStation, these cars should evoke emotion out of you. And it’s not just the cars. The venues themselves are stars in their own right. Tracks like Sebring, Laguna Seca, Lime Rock and Road America should all cause your ears to prick up upon hearing their names.
Today, BMW’s weapon of choice for ALMS is the Team RLL Z4 GTE which will be competing in the GT class and can be seen here http://www.bmwblog.com/2013/03/12/bmw-z4-gte-race-debut-in-sebring-bmw-team-rll-ready-for-fifth-alms-season/ One glance at the ALMS race calendar and you’ll notice this series is comprised of endurance and sprint races, placing performance and reliability at the very top of each competitors “things that we must get right in order to win” list. On the subject matter of endurance, I feel I can make an addition that would compliment this section nicely. Specifically, the famous (infamous?) 24 Hours of Nurburgring and the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona.
On January 26th 2013 the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona took place and our very own Andrew Murphy was there to capture all the action. You can find his full recap here http://www.bmwblog.com/2013/01/28/2013-rolex-24h-of-daytona-recap/
Come June 22nd, 2013 however, BMW Motorsport and its works team will roll their Z4 GT3’s at the starting grid onto the track known as “The Green Hell.” Click here for more details http://www.bmw-motorsport.com/en/24h-nuerburgring/fascination-24h.html
ALMS has a strong following of dedicated fans here in the U.S. thanks to the exciting on-track action. The different car classes as well as the endurance aspect mixed in with the allure of high octane racing makes this series a must watch. BMW also states that valuable data collected during the races as well as on-track help them improve the reliability as well as the performance aspects of their cars. Racing as a method of conducting research and development for their road-cars? I’ll take it!
BMW Sport Sponsorships
The sponsoring of sporting events by companies and brands is nothing new. Automotive companies such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz do it. Energy drink manufacturers like Red Bull and Monster do it. Even watch companies such as Rolex and Longines do it as well.
Why? Several reasons. Product placement for one. Many times the company that is sponsoring the event will have their commercials roll during breaks and depending on what the event itself is showcasing, the product will be tailored and presented in such a manner in which will make it appear as a perfect addition or companion to whatever it is you’re watching.
I will now demonstrate:
You are watching the U.S. Open tennis finals. Break appears, commercials roll in.
“Grace. Elegance. Athleticism and power.”
With the above line you can insert almost any car or watch commercial you fancy and you’ve got yourself a perfect pairing. Notice how the description can very easily also describe a svelte tennis player just as well as a car or a watch. What’s more, should you actually place a well-known tennis player in said commercial, you’ve got yourself an even better chance to associate, say, that brand new Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer to Roger Federer to you, should you buy one.
Brand recognition plays a huge role. It’s only natural that if you keep hearing and saying “Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona” or “Mercedes-Bens U.S. Open” you’ll me more likely to recognize and recall the brand more quickly. It’s just the way our brains work.
It’s not all just for marketing purposes however. For instance, BMW seized the opportunity and became the official automotive partner for the 2012 London Olympic & Paralympic Games. They used this massive exposure to promote the EfficiendDynamics of their electric, diesel and hybrid transport vehicles they had on offer for the shuttling of guests and athletes. One could argue that this partnership was done solely for exposure and marketing purposes, of which there was plenty of thanks to the massive audience the Olympic Games tends to amass. However, one could also argue that BMW took center stage in order to showcase their clean and efficient technologies to serve as an example of how electric, diesel and hybrid tech is intelligently put to good use. Win, win?
There are other instances aside from the partnership with the 2012 London Olympic Games as well. See below:
BMW Oracle Racing
When BMW became a sponsor/partner of the Oracle Racing sailboat team, primary owner Larry Ellison, co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corporation turned to them for assistance. The collaborative efforts of the two companies grew, which brought on a name change from “Oracle Racing” to “BMW Oracle Racing.” BMW played a key role in the structural engineering department of the trimaran, which included the use of lightweight composite materials.
In 2010 BMW Oracle Racing won the Americas Cup thanks to the innovative design of the ship. In fact, the design was so good that it became the fastest boat in the history of the Americas Cup. Oddly, BMW and Oracle Racing mutually decided to part ways that same year. Speculation within the industry would suggest business issues as being the reason behind the break-up. Still, benefits to this partnership, while it lasted anyways, made both parties happy while they were getting along. From BMW’s engineering assistance thanks to their vast experience in the field to perhaps the advantages of having an expert within the corporate software/hardware industry such as Oracle who produce their own database management systems. Business is business, and we’ll never know what really happened that lead to the demise of their partnership.
Various Tennis & Golf Sponsorships
Between 2004 – 2010 BMW had their own tennis championship. It was called, and I’m not kidding here, “BMW Tennis Championship.” It called the Sunrise Tennis Club home and was located in Sunrise, Florida.
BMW was also the vehicle sponsor for two of New Zealand’s premier tennis tournaments. Specifically the ASB Classic and the Heineken Open.
Aside from tennis, BMW also has a presence in the world of golf. With the two biggest events being the BMW Championship as well as the BMW International Open. The former taking place in Lake Forest, Illinois while the latter, a yearly tournament held only in Germany, which got its genesis back in 1989.
And that concludes our 3-part series exploring the empire that is BMW!
In part 1, our journey took us to the motorcycle or “Motorrad” division of BMW that builds “Ultimate Riding Machines” for the thrill-seekers out there. It then moved us along to the “Empire” of England where we discovered a beloved former British 4-wheeled icon, the Mini and how it now is part of the BMW family. Then, keeping it within Britannia, we explored what is arguably royalty on wheels thanks to the ever-majestic brand that now belongs to BMW, namely Rolls-Royce.
During part 2, we left the old continent and headed for the U.S. on a private jet, where we discovered that BMW Designworks not only designed the interior of our Boeing Business Jet, but also the seats of the first ever BMW 8 Series. Realizing the costs involved with all of this travelling, we contacted BMW Bank of North America in order to get our finances straight. We then explored the possibility of securing finances in order to place an order for the upcoming BMW i8 by speaking with our personal expert at BMW Financial Services. Lastly, knowing that the new i8 uses carbon extensively, we spoke with BMW in order to ensure they have a steady source of carbon material to build our pre-ordered i8. They assured us that their partnership and controlling stake in SGL Carbon would mean we’d be receiving our car on time!
Lastly, in part 3 we looked at some racing aspects that BMW is involved in. We found out that BMW runs a young drivers series known as Formula BMW and that some of them even made it into Formula 1! We then looked at some European exclusive racing thanks to DTM. From there we looked at ALMS, the amazing machines BMW built along the years and how endurance plays a crucial role in winning. To wrap things up, we explored some of the sponsorships that BMW has done throughout the years ranging from sailboat racing, to tennis, to golf and even the Olympics.
Although we’ve explored a lot of the empire that BMW has built, this is in no way a definitive list and there is still more to be discovered. BMW’s past is rich, and we don’t know what the future will have in store for the company. But, if history has taught us anything, it’s that BMW has the Midas touch.
Thanks for joining us on this 3-part journey and remember to share your thoughts below!
Missed part 1 and part 2? Find them here http://www.bmwblog.com/2013/04/30/empire-bmw-part-1/ and here http://www.bmwblog.com/2013/05/07/empire-bmw-part-2/