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The first car BMW ever made was the Dixi, produced in 1929. It was not an official BMW but instead created under license from Austin Motor Company. Although it would later become the BMW 3/15, car enthusiasts still call these economy cars by their popular name. The Dixi name has staying power. 

Dissecting the history of the Dixi is a story about multiple car manufacturers and their struggle to survive Germany’s post-war era. BMW managed to begin its automaking success with this car and go on to secure its future as a leading luxury automaker around the world. 

Was BMW’s first car in its original business plan?

According to Hagerty, BMW began as an aero-engine manufacturer, but after losing the war, the German company had to shift gears to make a profit. Motorcycles became their bread and butter. BMW Group notes that BMW saw an opportunity in failing automaker Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach. 

Fahrzeugfabrik Eisenach was a luxury car manufacturer known for its large, roomy, elegant vehicles. The post-war economy in Germany wasn’t generating consumers who were buying large luxury vehicles, so the company adapted to consumer demand. 

Consumer demand was leaning toward smaller vehicles with smaller engines. One motivator for this trend was taxation based on engine size or piston displacement. Smaller vehicles were more affordable from a taxation standpoint. 

The company downsized its vehicle, pairing with Austin Motors to design the Dixi. Variants of the Austin 7 design were also sold as the Rosengart in France and the Bantam in America.

This is similar to what happens today when vehicle manufacturers use each other for inspiration. It isn’t uncommon today to confuse vehicles like the Toyota Supra and the BMW Z4 M40i

Final Dixi DA-1 models had a 748-cc four-cylinder engine with a 3-speed gearbox. The small body was easier to move, and the Dixi could travel up to 47 mph. 

BMW makes its first car

When BMW started making Dixi, it didn’t change anything. The company updated the Dixi to the DA-2 model in 1929, and it became officially a BMW 3/15. Updates eventually included an all-steel body, wind-up windows, and adjustable seats. 

The BMW 3/15 DA-3 Wartburg was the first sports car created by BMW. It was a roadster with a lower center of gravity and higher engine compression. It was a far cry from the original DA-1 design, but the depressed economy was no place for sports cars. Only 150 Wartburgs were sold. 

The DA-4 was the last “Dixi,” although it had shed its name by that time. In 1932, BWM moved on to the BMW 3/20, and BMW’s first car became a memory. 

Comparing BMW’s first car to today


3 of the Best BMWs to Buy

Today’s BMWs look nothing like the BMW 3/15s of the 1920s and 1930s. You aren’t going to see spoked wheels or boxy silhouettes on today’s modern vehicles. However, the evolution of the 3/15 is very reminiscent of alterations you’ll see today by the BMW automaker.

BMWs today are similar to those of the past because they are a reflection of consumer demand, the economy, and the company’s promise to deliver driving pleasure. However, cars like today’s fully-loaded 2024 BMW X6 are more in-line with BMW’s goals of luxury, fun, and performance. Times have changed, yet they’ve also stayed the same in so many ways. 

As the economy and automobile landscape continues to change, so will BMW with all-electric vehicles, inexpensive alternatives, and luxury/performance vehicles. Much like it did in 1929, the company adapts in order to survive.