Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG was formed in 1916. This company was renamed to Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) in 1922. However the name BMW dates back to 1913, when the original company to use the name was founded by Karl Rapp (initially as Rapp Motorenwerke GmbH). BMW's first product was a straight-six aircraft engine called the BMW IIIa, designed in the spring of 1917 by engineer Max Friz. Following the end of World War I, BMW remained in business by producing motorcycle engines, farm equipment, household items and railway brakes. The company produced its first motorcycle, the BMW R 32 in 1923.
BMW became an automobile manufacturer in 1928 when it purchased Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach, which, at the time, built Austin Sevens under licence under the Dixi marque. The first car sold as a BMW was a rebadged Dixi called the BMW 3/15, following BMW's acquisition of the car manufacturer Automobilwerk Eisenach. Throughout the 1930s, BMW expanded its range into sports cars and larger luxury cars.
Aircraft engines, motorcycles, and automobiles would be BMW's main products until World War II. During the war, against the wishes of its director Franz Josef Popp, BMW concentrated on aircraft engine production using forced labor consisting primarily of prisoners from concentration camps, with motorcycles as a side line and automobile manufacture ceased altogether. BMW's factories were heavily bombed during the war and its remaining West German facilities were banned from producing motor vehicles or aircraft after the war. Again, the company survived by making pots, pans, and bicycles. In 1948, BMW restarted motorcycle production. BMW resumed car production in Bavaria in 1952 with the BMW 501 luxury saloon. The range of cars was expanded in 1955, through the production of the cheaper Isetta microcar under licence. Slow sales of luxury cars and small profit margins from microcars meant BMW was in serious financial trouble and in 1959 the company was nearly taken over by rival Daimler-Benz. A large investment in BMW by Herbert Quandt and Harald Quandt resulted in the company surviving as a separate entity. The BMW 700 was successful and assisted in the company's recovery.