BMW is currently celebrating its 100 year anniversary, an impressive achievement for any company and one the brand should be proud of. But just lasting 100 years isn’t what’s most impressive about BMW’s centenary, it’s how important BMW has been to the automotive industry during its long history. Coming from very humble means and then being restricted immediately after WWII, BMW still managed to be one of the largest automotive pioneers in history. However, its main competition, Mercedes-Benz, might be able to claim even more.
While BMW was celebrating its birthday, companies like Porsche and Mercedes-Benz all offered nice gestures by putting out ads basically saying “It’s been good competing with you for these 100 years, let’s hope for 100 more”. It was a great sign of respect and sportsmanship by its fellow German brands. But Mercedes-Benz decided to do a little competitive, but friendly, ribbing by saying in an ad “Thanks for 100 years of competition. The 30 years before that were a little dull.” This is to show off that Karl Benz, one of the founders of Mercedes-Benz, is actually largely credited with inventing the automobile.
So ever since BMW’s inception, the two German Giants have been going at it over which can be the best, most innovative company and we’ve seen some pretty incredible cars and technologies come about over the years because of the rivalry of these two great brands.
Things really started to heat up in the 1950’s, when Mercedes-Benz developed its 300SL Gullwing, the very first production car to feature fuel injection. BMW followed up with its 507 Roadster, one of the most beautiful cars ever made but also almost doomed the company and set BMW back quite a bit.
In 1972, BMW shocked the world with the 1602e, one of the world’s first electric cars, at the Munich Olympics. This shows that BMW has been in the EV game basically longer than anyone. So take that Tesla.
Following the 1602e, the two companies would battle back and forth for decades. Mercedes-Benz invented anti-lock brakes, cars like the E30 BMW M3 and the Mercedes-Benz 190e took to the track to try and prove each brand’s dominance and they both developed all-wheel drive systems for their sport sedans (which in fairness was to combat Audi). Mercedes-Benz brought the first luxury SUV into the market, with BMW following suit a few years later. But BMW invented the first infotainment system, with iDrive which, despite being universally maligned at first, has become the gold-standard in infotainment systems.
Now the two companies are battling it out in both the electric vehicle field as well as in autonomous driving. The two German Giants have been at each other’s throats for 100 years and the competition has done nothing but push the automobile forward and helped create new inventions, technologies and concepts for the future. So the real hero in BMW’s 100 years isn’t just what it’s done, but how it’s competed.