When you’ve been around for more than 100 years in the automotive world, you’re bound to get called all sorts of nicknames that come to define you among fans; BMW is the ultimate proof of that, having seen its share of different names over the years.
Although the BMW twin kidney grille is by far the most recognizable feature of the German brand (apart from the logo), the nicknames beset on the automotive juggernaut also echo across generations and carry a significant weight in terms of its popularity and appeal across time.
BMW vehicles have carried many pop culture nicknames during its journey, and in recent years the names “beamer,” “beemer” and “bimmer” have all had their share of fame; but not all of them are technically correct, and some of them have deeper meanings than their counterparts. Let’s delve a little deeper into BMW history to understand how it got such iconic nicknames.
Originating in Great Britain and meant to differentiate BMW motorcycles from another British manufacturer whose motorcycles were nicknamed “Beezer”, “Beamer” came to be as BMW delivered a strong performance on the British racing scene, including the “Isle of Man TT Races”.
Racing enthusiasts and motorsports fans popularized the nickname “Beemer” especially for BMW motorcycles, as a variation of “beezer”, which rolled off the tongue much smoother and caught on as the easier-said version of BMW.
The first non-British racer to win the Senior TT in 1939, Georg “Schorsch” Meier, was riding a BMW 255 Kompressor, and after that several drivers ended up winning the distinguished race 26 times over the years, like Walter Schneider, Max Deubel, Siegfried Schauzu or Klaus Ender.
As “beemer” rose in popularity, it morphed into “beamer” although the relevance to the word “beam” is thought to be purely coincidental. It’s also worth mentioning that this nickname never made its way to Germany, probably because “BMW” comes naturally easy when spoken in German.
As the 1970s rolled in, BMW was becoming a flagship name in the automotive world. By then, BMW cars were referred to by Americans as ”beamers” in relation to the motorcycle fame it had experienced in previous years. At one point, a magazine for BMW fans was published in the United States with the title “Bimmer”, and that quickly became the go-to name for BMW vehicles. By the time that the 3rd generation of the BMW 3 Series hit the market, “Bimmer” was established and spreading across the U.S, and the world, including Germany.
Bao-ma (Precious Horse)
With the roaring demand of BMW models driving its popularity across the globe, more exotic nicknames were bound to emerge; and that’s exactly what happened in China in the 1990s.
BMW cars were given the name “Bao-ma” in China, which literally translates to “precious horse”, and this sobriquet stems from the Chinese culture’s high appreciation of horses as sacred creatures that carry tremendous value, in addition to indicating a competitive advantage over rivals; a fitting analogy, seeing as this notion was quite symbolic of what BMW was becoming at the time, especially that the ownership of a BMW today is indicative of wealth and prosperity in China.
No matter what nickname is being used for BMW cars around the world, some remain recognizable on a global level and some only pertain to a country’s local population, but there’s one thing that remains constant anywhere you look; having many nicknames only sustains that BMW remains at the forefront of reputable commercial vehicles around the world.