BMW (Bavarian Motor Works or the German version, Bayerische Motoren Werke) Automotive Group has an extensive history, dating back to the early 1900's. Rather than bore you with the wikipedia page, I have chosen the most interesting parts of their history along with some fascinating trivia.
BMW began making automobiles in 1929 after it purchased Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, who built Austin Sevens under licence under the Dixi marque. BMW's team of engineers progressively developed their cars from small Seven-based cars into six-cylinder luxury cars.
In 1936, BMW produced their first 328 sports car.
World War II
Prior to World War II, BMW primarily produced aircraft engines, motorcycles, and automobiles. Due to the increasing demand for aircraft engines, BMW shifted to concentrate on aircraft engine production, stopping the manufacture of motorcycles and automobiles entirely.
After the war ended and demand for aircraft engines plummeted, BMW manufactured miscellaneous items until it restarted motorcycle production in 1948. In 1952, BMW began building cars in Bavaria, starting with the 501 luxury saloon.
Due to the 501 saloon being a luxury vehicle, sales were too small to be profitable. BMW then began making the Isetta - a microcar.
In 1966, BMW's Munich plant reached is maximum production output. BMW purchased Han Glas GmbH with it's factories in Dingolfing and Landshut and began making the "New Six" sedan, 2500, 2800, 2.5 CS and 2800 CS.
In 1968, BMW launched its large "New Six" sedans, the 2500, 2800, and American Bavaria, and coupés, the 2.5 CS and 2800 CS. In 1971, BMW moved into their current headquarters in Munich. The building is undeniably unique - based on a four cylinder engine.
1972 signaled the birth of the 5 Series and 1975 the 3 Series. They were created to replace the New Six sedan and new class coupes, respectively. BMW introduced the 7 Series in 1977 - forming the three-tier size range that lasted into the 1990s. The 6 Series was also subsequently released to meet customer demand. In 1994, BMW opened a factory in South Carolina, which produces the X5 and X6 today.
BMW M Group
BMW's M group was created to facilitate the BMW racing program. As many know, BMW M began to manufacture modified trim models for it's production lineup. All M vehicles are tested an tuned at the BMW facility in Nurburgring Germany.
Bimmer vs Beamer vs Beemer
To put it simply, BMW automobiles are called Bimmers. BMW motorcycles are called Beemers (or Beamers).
The term Beemer was first used with motorcycles. The legend goes that when British bikes were popular and the company baa was a well-known manufacturer, riders would often refer to them as Beezers, sort of a way to say BSA as a word. BMW riders then co-opted the word Beemer, as a way of saying BMW as a word. Since BMW manufactured motorcycles well before their automobiles became popular, whenever the word Beemer was said, it was in reference to their motorcycles.
For an unknown reason, when BMW automobiles came about, people started referring to them as Bimmers. Although it doesn't make much sense why the originators didn't just call all BMW products Beemers, the names were unofficially designated back in the 40's and 50's, and it doesn't seem right to argue with half a century of tradition.
Origin of the BMW Logo
Many people have heard that the BMW logo was carried over from their aircraft engine days. This is a myth propagated by a magazine cover in 1929, showing the BMW logo on an airplane propeller.
However, the true origin dates back to the merger of BMW and Rapp Motors in July 1917. As you can see from the picture below, BMW decided to take on the roundness of the RAPP logo and the lettering around the circle. They also added the colors of the Bavarian Flag, which are blue and white checkers.