For as long as we can remember, the blue/white BMW logo had always represented an airplane propeller, but with the introduction of the German automaker’s new brand logo, we also get to really understand what it really means.

BMW CEO Oliver Zipse and the Concept i4.

The new “transparent” BMW logo, first introduced in the i4 concept car unveiled at the cancelled Geneva Auto Show, victim to the Corona virus outbreak in Europe, is targeted at the new digital generation, the company says.


“Its two-dimensional and transparent design ensures seamless integration and brings the special exterior colour shade Frozen Light Copper to even greater prominence,” BMW stated in its Concept i4 press release. “The concept car not only has the task of looking ahead to the future in terms of aesthetics, technology and innovation, it also explores the design potential within our BMW trademark.”

But what about the logo’s meaning?

Check out the website and you’ll find a page dedicated to this topic (link at end of story).

“Many people believe the BMW logo is a stylized propeller,” says Fred Jakobs, Archive Director of BMW Group Classic. “But the truth is a little different.”

“In the early days, the logo and its meaning were by no means as present to a broad public as they are today, as BMW had no end customers to solicit,” Jakobs added. “The main business was the production and maintenance of aircraft engines for the German Air Force.”

BMW emerged from the firm Rapp Motorenwerke GmbH (1913-1917). This can also be seen in the first BMW logo from October 1917, which continued Rapp’s tradition of having a black ring around the company logo bearing the company name.

“Nevertheless, on October 5th, 1917 the young firm received a company logo. This first BMW badge, which was registered in the German Imperial Register of Trademarks, retained the round shape of the old Rapp logo. The outer ring of the symbol was now bounded by two gold lines and bore the letters BMW.

“The company’s home state of Bavaria was also to be represented on the company logo. The quarters of the inner circle on the BMW badge display the state colors of the State of Bavaria – white and blue. But they are in the inverse order (at least as far as heraldic rules are concerned, where you read clockwise from the top left). The reason for this inverse order of blue and white in the BMW logo was the local trademark law at the time, which forbade the use of state coats of arms or other symbols of sovereignty on commercial logos.

Since this BMW publication from 1929, the myth that the BMW logo is a propeller has endured.

“The first key to the meaning of the BMW logo are its colors: white and blue are the colors of the State of Bavaria in Germany, home of BMW. A 1929 BMW ad depicts the BMW emblem, complete with the four colored quadrants, in a spinning airplane propeller. The interpretation that the BMW logo represents a propeller has endured ever since.

Left: This was the emblem that BMW used to present itself at the motor show in Berlin in 1924. Right: In the early years, BMW produced engines for a wide range of applications: aircrafts, automobiles, agricultural equipment and boats.

“At the beginning of the global economic crisis, the ad was trying to promote a new aircraft engine that BMW was building under license from Pratt & Whitney. The propeller interpretation fit very well into the advertising image of the young company, as it underlined the company’s roots and its expertise in aircraft construction.

“Then, in 1942, BMW itself linked the propeller to its company symbol. An article appeared in a BMW publication called “Flugmotoren-Nachrichten” (Aircraft Engine News) which backed up the story of the BMW badge as a spinning propeller. The story was illustrated with a photo of the BMW logo overlaid on a rotating propeller.

BMW did not make any serious efforts to discourage this myth. In fact, it continued to represent the BMW emblem as a propeller, like this 1942 illustration from the company’s works magazine.

“For a long time, BMW made little effort to correct the myth that the BMW badge is a propeller,” explains Fred Jakobs of BMW Group Classic.

Thus, saying that the BMW logo is based on a propeller is not entirely wrong, although saying that that there is a propeller in the emblem is not entirely true either. “Constant repetition” has helped the notion to grow into an urban myth, he said.

“This interpretation has been commonplace for 90 years, so in the meantime it has acquired a certain justification,” Jakobs concluded.