Plenty of drama transpired this week in connection to one German brand’s EV-themed renaming prank, one that was painfully obvious to those who’d consulted a calendar or knew how much rebrandings usually cost. Our hypothetical this week, however, is actually sort of serious—and it, too, concerns a German automaker’s EV-themed branding.
BMW rolled out its “i” sub-brand almost a decade ago, borrowing a page from Apple’s naming convention. We’re used to the sight of the BMW i3—perhaps a little less so with the the i8—but we’re about to get an entire lineup of electric BMWs, with the automaker aiming to field a variety of EVs across segments.
As a sub-branding tactic, BMW’s went the safe and boring route, one that effectively transposed its “-i” suffix (think 530i, M340i, etc.) into a prefix, signaling a shift from fuel-injection to no injection.
But was another option staring BMW directly in the face?
BMW enthusiasts certainly know what EMW was, but perhaps not everyone does. The red roundel emerged in the years immediately after WWII when auto plants in occupied Germany were seized by the Allies. This included a BMW plant in Eisenach that fell under the control of the USSR, and which started cranking out prewar BMW designs under the banner of Eisenacher Motorenwerk. BMW was not too pleased about the usage of the trademark, neither the red roundel or its EMW branding, but not to worry; the brand did not last long with its facelifted prewar designs, only remaining in production through the mid-1950s. Soon afterward the Eisenach plant started producing Wartburg cars.
EMWs, meanwhile, remained in daily use by some owners into the 1980s, because WWII-era cars were still used in perpetually car-needy USSR and its Eastern Bloc friends. The trademark itself was no longer in use by Wartburg, which didn’t survive the reunification of Germany, so “EMW” had fallen into disuse decades ago.
We’d like to think some at BMW may have given a brief thought to reviving the name and the red roundel, perhaps toying with calling it Elektrische Motorenwerk and spinning it off as an EV and hybrid sub-brand. Could BMW have reclaimed this part of its history by reclaiming the EMW name and roundel for its electric models?
We picture it as a sort of Škoda for Munich, or a Bavarian Datsun: a platform-shared lineup Of course, some might point out that in the not too distant future, all BMW models could be electric anyway, which would make the two brands seem redundant. The name for a budget brand of EVs still presents an interesting option, however.
with lower pricing, a few skipped options, and a distinct design identity. Such a brand could be an aspirational budget brand for China, where EV demand is serious and is only going to grow, allowing BMW to get a slice of the volume pie without fielding less expensive cars under its own name. BMW is certainly comfortable enough with its history—it just brought back the Neue Klasse name for its future EV platforms. Some might say there’s hardly anyone who remembers EMW, but a similar historical ignorance didn’t stop Borgward from being revived.
Could EMW work as a future brand for BMW’s budget EV models, similar to Škoda’s role in the VW brand lineup? Let us know in the comments below.
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