The company began as an aircraft engine manufacturer in the early 20th century and through World War I. BMW manufactured its first motorcycle in 1923, the R32, which featured a flat-twin boxer engine. BMW Motorrad still uses the flat-twin boxer configuration, but now manufactures motorcycles with a variety of engine configurations.
All BMW Motorrad's motorcycle production takes place at its plant in Berlin, Germany, although some engines are manufactured in Austria, China, and Taiwan. Most of the current motorcycles in BMW Motorrad's range were designed by David Robb, who was the company's chief designer from 1993 to 2012 when he was replaced by Edgar Heinrich.
BMW Motorrad produced 82,631 motorcycles in 2009,compared with 104,220 in 2008,a fall of 20.7% The most popular model is the R1200GS and its sibling R1200GS Adventure, which sold 24,467 units – accounting for 28% of BMW's annual production. Current production includes a variety of shaft, chain, and belt driven models, with engines from 650 cc to 1,649 cc; and models designed for off-road, dual-purpose, sport, and touring activities.
In 2008, BMW introduced the DOHC Boxer HP2 Sport,and entered the serious off-road competition motorcycle market with the release of the BMW G450X motorcycle.
BMW Motorrad motorcycles are categorized into product families, and each family is assigned a different letter prefix. The current families are: