When BMW first began competing against perennial archrival Daimler a hundred years ago, the company wasn’t building luxury cars but engines that powered World War I propeller planes. It was only in 1960, when the company was on the verge of collapse, that BMW was forced to sell its core airplane engine business to survive.
As BMW celebrates its 100-year anniversary today with a celebration in Munich's Olympiahalle, it finds itself entering a new disruptive digital age commonly called the Fourth Industrial Revolution. A resurgent Mercedes-Benz, slowing China car sales and rising competition from tech juggernauts Google and Apple are just some of the challenges it faces.
Under former CEO Norbert Reithofer, BMW set forth a clearly defined mission statement to be the world’s leading premium automaker by 2020. And for the past 10 years, it succeeded thanks in part to its crushing dominance of the midsize segment symbolized by the 3-series sedan.