BMW Centennial Books

By David Lightfoot

It is sad to see that there aren’t many books published any longer about BMW. The trends for ink-on-paper remain grim but BMW’s centennial year gave us the gift of a number of books to celebrate 100 years of BMW. We were fortunate to see so many fine volumes appear in 2016, so we better enjoy them while we can.

Most of these centennial books were factory efforts although the first one was privately published.

The BMW Century by Tony Lewin, published by Motorbooks, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA, Inc., 2016, 240 pages, hardbound in a large format. Available from Amazon for $50.

This is a big, spectacular coffee table books that covers the 100 year history of our favorite car company. The subtitle is “The Ultimate Performance Machines” and the foreword is written by Tom Purves, former head of BMW NA.

While a coffee table type of book with lots of well-produced color photos, the text is also well written. There is a lot of ground covered with 100 years of BMW products, including cars, motorcycles, and airplane engines. Plus, the corporate adventures and misadventures of BMW’s history are told. Only in the last couple of chapters does the author mention the future for the company. At $50, this book is a bargain.

BMW Group, 100 Masterpieces edited by Andreas Braun, published by Hirmer Verlag, 2016, 236 pages, hardbound in a large format. Available from Amazon for $44.25.

Dr. Braun is the Curator at the BMW Museum in Munich. . The book was written to accompany a special 100 year retrospective at the BMW Museum. This book was written in German and translated to English; both languages are in the print version. Sometimes the English suffers in these efforts but the English is good in this case. But the book has one major oddity.

I would expect the “100 Masterpieces” to be 100 BMW products to showcase the company’s history. A highlight film on paper perhaps. But instead the “100 Masterpieces” include BMW products but also significant achievements or milestones in the company’s history.

Here is how it plays out. There is a page or two on groundbreaking BMW cars such as the 328, 507, Isetta, New Class, 2002, M1, Z8 and all the other significant cars one would expect. Similarly, there are many significant beamers. And concepts such as the pioneering E1 electric car and the X Coupe that introduced flame surfacing. All of this makes sense to me.

What came as a surprise was the “100 Masterpieces” include such achievements as the introduction of BMW healthcare,  the introduction of market research, the legendary shareholder meeting of 1959, introduction of flexible work schedule models, the foundation of BMW Bank, the first corporate environmental officer, introduction of corporate identity and the South African HIV and Aids policy. These are all masterpieces? Significant events, certainly, but masterpieces?

This is all interesting if one is interested in the history of BMW as a business but less so if one’s interest is confined to the company’s products or just automobiles. Still, I highly recommend the book at this price as it big and beautiful, filled with a lot of great photos.

Driving the Future edited by BMW AG, published by Piper Verlag GmbH, 2016, 144 pages, hardbound. Not available commercially but copies available on eBay.

A copy of this book was given to each employee of the BMW Group in the United Kingdom. It was printed in Germany but I have not seen any copies in German. But there are plenty in English available on eBay. The book was given to each employee in either a red or black canvas bag with the Next 100 Years logo on it. So if you find a copy on eBay to buy, there is a good chance it will come with one of these bags.

The messages of this book are that BMW is a worldwide company and they employ a diverse group of employees. The story starts via biographical snippets of BMW employees worldwide. The next chapter is a short history but then gets into many reasons on the theme of why BMW is such a terrific employer, such as healthy food at the company cafeterias and fitness programs.

The final chapter gets into the company’s strengths in terms of technology, innovation and progressive practices. There is quite a bit about the company’s youth initiatives. It is a bit of a brochure for the company. You should be able to find a copy for about $25 including the bag. At that price, the book is heavily subsidized by the company, as are most of these publications.

BMW Group The Next Hundred Years notepad.

This was the first publication of the centennial year, probably because there wasn’t any text to write or lay out. This is simply a journal-sized, hardbound notepad of blank paper with a sliding metal clasp. I think it is a dealer item for under $20.

Centennial Six Pack

Early in 2016 BMW announced that they would be doing an installment series of books and then tying all of these installments into one volume. Or something like that. As near as I can tell, six small, soft-cover books were published by BMW Group and produced by Hoffmann und Campe Verlag GmbH. These six titles then were included, verbatim, as chapters in a much grander book I’ll tell you about in a moment.

The six titles are:

  • Where is the BMW Group Headed? Based on interviews with BMW senior staff about the direction of the auto industry and BMW in the future.
  • Back to the Future. Subtitled ‘100 Years of Forward Thinking at the BMW Group.’
  • Every Mini is My Mini is the story of the Mini concept vehicle that was done for the centennial and its theme of personalization to the driver’s tastes.
  • The Grand Sanctuary is about the Rolls-Royce concept vehicle presented in 2016.
  • The Great Escape is about the concept motorcycle that BMW Motorrad created.
  • The Ultimate Driver is the story of the BMW Vision Next 100 concept vehicle.

I don’t think these books were made commercially available. They don’t have ISBN numbers and can’t find any for sale except rarely on eBay. It appears these six books, along with the Centennial notepad, were given as a package to members of the press. I found mine on eBay with the seven books as a package. Never fear, the contents and more are included in…

The Next 100 edited by Adriano Sack, published by BMW Group and produced by Hoffmann und Campe Verlag GmbH, 592 pages, hardbound in a large format. Available new from eBay sellers for under $100 including shipping.

Subtitled ‘Ideas, Views and Visions of Tomorrow’s World.’  This six-pound tome is BMW’s ultimate present to itself on its 100th birthday. It has eleven chapters, six of which I mentioned above and are incorporated in this book, except this book is bigger so the layout is a bit grander than in the smaller, single-chapter publications. The other five chapters are:

  • Where Do we Go from Here? About what the future might look like and what are the opportunities it will offer.
  • Meeting of Minds features thought leaders from science, research and art talking with BMW Group executives and board members.
  • Fast and Curious is an exploration of innovative forms of mobility from the past, real and imagined.
  • The End of the World was Yesterday is a compilation of essays about various visions of the future.
  • Out of the Box. My favorite chapter. A host of surprises from the BMW Group Archives. Consider the cases of the BMW 531, three-wheeled delivery vehicle, motorized plow and Rolls-Royce soapbox racer.

This is a monumental book and really oriented to the future of BMW as a company. There are conversations between many thought leaders and BMW leaders, mostly members of the supervisory board. Included in these are the most public profiles I’ve ever seen of the Quandt family members who own 46.6% of BMW’s stock. The youngest generation of Quandts, Stefan Quandt and his sister, Susanne Klatten, are both pictured and quoted; quite a break from the past. Stephan interviewed neuroscientist and Nobel Prize winner Thomas Sudhof on the Sanford University campus. Suzanne Klatten shares a conversation with Carlo Ratti, an Italian architect and engineer who teaches at MIT, at BMW Welt in Munich.

At $100 this is really, really a bargain! Almost 600 pages, heavy paper and great production values. You should get it, if the topics interest you. Some chapters are a bit out there, but I like it. And BMW isn’t going to be doing it again.