A stroll through BMW’s heritage

By Korea Herald

Vintage cars from BMW Museum likely to arrive at Korean driving center

  • Published : Mar 27, 2014 - 20:32
  • Updated : Mar 27, 2014 - 20:33
MUNICH, Germany ― On March 18, BMW officials handed over a pair of white gloves to international journalists who participated in a press conference with the brand’s design chief Karim Habib at the BMW Museum located in Munich.

Called the “Night of White Gloves,” the guests were allowed to explore the heritage of the brand by strolling through the museum building and do what is normally forbidden ― touch the cars.

About 125 vehicles were displayed at the 4,000 square-meter museum site, ranging from the very first BMW model made in 1929 to the latest i8 hybrid sports car. They were all in perfect condition. 
Visitors touch BMW’s vintage cars during the “Night of White Gloves” event at the BMW Museum in Munich, Germany. (BMW Group)

“There has been no damage to the cars so far,” said Ralf Rodepeter, director of the museum, adding that the same event last year attracted some 4,000 visitors in a single day.

“The event aims to allow people to touch and get into the cars and get a closer relation with BMW brands,” he said. “The cars are also shinier than before.”

For German luxury carmakers, now competition relies on heritage and image as much as horsepower and handling. BMW, the No. 1 brand in the premium segment, seems also to be a winner in the fierce heritage battle.

The museum first opened in 1973 and was enlarged and redesigned in 2008 as part of the carmaker’s brand expansion that also includes the adjacent headquarters building, also known as the Four-Cylinder building, and the famous BMW Welt, a giant delivery center and a public gallery.

In 2013, the BMW “ensemble” attracted 2.9 million visitors from 22 different countries, becoming one of the most popular tourist sites in Europe, legendary chairman Norbert Reithofer stated proudly it at a recent media event. 
A virtual image of the planned BMW Driving Center that opens in July on Yeongjongdo Island, west of Seoul (BMW Korea)

The museum tour consists of 25 exhibition areas on BMW, BMW Motorrad, Mini and Rolls-Royce. The range of topics covers the history of the company, brands and products, combined with a broad range of developments in design, technology and motor sports.

“During the roughly two-hour tour, visitors become part of an intense brand experience,” said the museum chief, who has been in charge of the museum since its renewal in 2007.

According to him, all the BMW cars are taken when they are produced and are stored at a giant garage outside Munich. BMW officials are still looking all over the world for specially designed cars or those driven by celebrities.

“It’s an ongoing process,” he added.

The museum and the vast collection of BMW cars are also an inspiration for today’s BMW designers, including five Koreans, said the chief designer Karim Habib, who is credited with the current 7 Series design.

“We recently started talking about the next 3 Series. So we took all of our 3 Series from our garage, and my colleagues were all more than happy,” he said.

For the BMW employees, the BMW garage is as wondrous as a toy store at Christmas time.

BMW builds heritage in Korea

The BMW Driving Center, consisting of a race track and a brand museum, will open in July on Yeongjong Island near Incheon International Airport.

“Korea is a very important market for us, with our sales there almost tripling over the past five years,” Ian Robertson, BMW’s sales chief, said of his expectations about the first facility of its kind set up outside Germany.

The facility will be equipped with six tracks, a museum, gallery and training center on a 236,000-square-meter site on the island, some 40 kilometers west of Seoul.

The Korean unit expects about 200,000 visitors from home and abroad annually as it will be like a theme park where families can have fun participating in various programs.

The BMW Museum chief also hinted that some vintage cars from the carmaker’s garage could be sent to Korea to spice up the experience of local motorists at the new facility. 

By Lee Ji-yoon, Korea Herald correspondent