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Today Munich-based BMW is reputed as the manufacturer of luxury vehicles across all classes, from sports car to SUV to an electric supercar, with a fiercely loyal customer base. But few of those customers may realize the company nearly died before taking off. Launched as an aviation company 100 years ago by Karl Rapp and Gustav Otto, BMW built cars between 1929 and 1941 before the Second World War forced a cease in production. Years of money-losing operations after the war led to a near-sale of the company to Daimler-Benz AG in 1959. The creation of the BMW 1500 in 1961 returned the company to profitability two years later, and by the 1970s the ancestors of the vehicles we see on the streets today made the company popular with driving aficionados. In 2015, BMW remained the No. 1 luxury car dealer globally using 25 production plants located in 14 countries. The company also owns Rolls-Royce and Mini. In Canada, BMW sold cars and motorcycles through a patchwork of independent operators until 1986, when the company established a head office here. BMW now sells more than 40,000 vehicles annually to Canadians, its success today, as always, rooted in the 3-Series. Here is a photo compilation of landmark vehicles in the company's history.

1923: BMW R32 motorcycle The Treaty of Versailles that ended the First World War forbade BMW from making aircraft engines. With the company’s survival at stake, chief designer Max Friz drew up plans for the first Motorrad in a span of just five weeks. The R32’s core engineering features, including shaft drive and a horizontally-opposed boxer engine, are still used in many of BMW’s current motorcycles.

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1928: Dixi In Germany, Daimler and Benz preceded Heinrich Ehrhardt into automotive manufacturing. In 1928, BMW acquires the licence to build the Austin Seven, an English car, which had been sold in Germany as the Dixi 3/15 PS. When it begins building the Dixi a year later, the car is rebranded with the BMW name. By winning the International Alpine Rally in 1929, the car seeds the company’s hunger for racing. In 1932, the BMW 3/20PS becomes the first car to be designed and produced exclusively by BMW. A model of the Dixi is on display at the company’s Canadian head office, in Richmond Hill, Ont.

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1936: BMW 328 Designed for racing, the roadster had innovative aerodynamics, and a six-cylinder engine with light-alloy cylinder heads and triple carburetors. Though only 464 are built, the company believes it may have been the “most important milestone ever” in its history, as it revolutionized motorsports. In 1940, after the Second World War begins, a Touring Coupe wins the Mille Miglia in Italy. BMW’s entries – another Coupe and three Roadsters - are made with lightweight aluminum and an engine boosting horsepower to 135 from 80.

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1955: BMW 507 Built with an aluminum 3.2-litre V-8 offering 150 horsepower, the 507 reaches speeds of 220 km/h and signals a return to engineering success. Only 251 are built. Today it is a highly desired collectible.

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1961: BMW 1500 A new style of car, sporty and compact, boosts BMW back to profitability two years later. The first in a line that would come to be known as the New Class, with nearly 340,000 produced by 1972. The BMW 1800 follows the 1500 in 1963 with the same body but a new engine.

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1966: BMW 02 Series BMW creates the iconic slogan, “Sheer driving pleasure” in sync with the originally designed 02, a compact car offering the most dynamic performance since perhaps the 328 model of the late 1930s. The company would ship 862,000 of the vehicles through 1977.

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1968: BMW 2500 and 2800 With the New Class and O2 Series generating confidence through robust sales, BMW returns to the large, luxury saloon market. Six-cylinder engines power the new coupes. The following year, 1969, BMW sells almost 145,000 cars.

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1972: BMW 5 Series The 520 model, marking the transition from the New Class, is aimed at executives looking for a sporty drive. It would be offered in four-, six- and eight-cylinder versions.

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1975: BMW 3 Series The successor to the 02 Series is the two-door 3 Series, at first offered with 4-cylinders in the 316, 318 and 320 models. The BMW 323i in 1978 gets a 6-cylinder engine, the first in its segment. Known for sporty handling, alluring design and a smooth ride, the 3 Series would become the model to beat in the mid-size segment.

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1976: BMW 6 Series The executive class coupé becomes the successor to the large coupés of the 1960s. The top-of-the-range model, M635CSi, offered in 1984, comes with 286 horsepower. BMW would produce the 6 Series until 1989, making it then the longest tenured model range in company history.

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1978: BMW M1 The M1 sports, emanating from the Motorsport GmbH subsidiary which had been created in 1972, is the first mid-engined car built by BMW and features 277 horsepower and a body made with a plastic outer shell. It can rach 260-km/h. A version for Procar racing delivers 470 horsepower with top speed of 310 km/h.

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1987: 12-cylinder engine The first high-performance 12-cylinder built by a German company since before the Second World War, the 5.0-litre engine at first delivers 300 horsepower. With light alloys implemented from the start, it would be increased to 5.4 litres and 326 horsepower and introduced in the BMW 750i, and later, the 850i Sports Coupé, then evolved to be placed in the McLaren F1.

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1988: BMW Z1 Designed as a concept car, BMW Technik GmbHtakes a cue from public feedback to build 8,000 of the roadsters between 1988 and 1991. Characteristics include electrically retracting doors, a 6-cylinder engine, new chassis, new multilink rear axle, and an innovative aerodynamic system that flows air through a new rear diffuser to create a suction effect with the road. The car seeds the Z4 Roadster.

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1991: BMW E1 Twenty-five years later, BMW has two electric cars on the road and much of the buzz in the industry concerns their development. The company first sent a prototype, based on the 02 Series, to the 1972 Munich Olympics. The E1, designed by Technik GmbH and unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Sends 45 horsepower directly into the rear wheels.

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1999: BMW X5 Unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show, the four-wheel-drive, off-road X5 launches a new Sports Activity Vehicle (SAV) segment for the industry. Four year later, the more agile X3 is introduced and more than 600,000 units would be sold by 2010.

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2004: 1 Series The company brings driving dynamics and fuel efficiency to a compact, rear-wheel drive vehicle. It is named “World Green Car of the Year” in 2008.

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