Skip to content
Subscriber Only

BMW's Beetle

To survive in the post-war European market, BMW needed its own VW Bug. It got one in the 1958 Isetta 600

Germans in the 1950s weren't concerned with having "the ultimate driving machine," they were just happy not to be walking or pedaling. With a limited market for cars like the spectacular and expensive 507 roadster, BMW needed a volume model to survive. They understood the needs of the post-war European market and decided the best niche to exploit was the sub-VW Beetle class of microcars that had become popular with Germans who had not yet fully recovered from the ravages of the Second World War.

Appliance maker Renzo Rivolta's little Isetta seemed tailor-made for someone of limited means who wanted something more than a scooter or a motorcycle with a sidecar. A deal was struck to license and produce the 250-cc Italian microcar that became known in Germany as das rollende Ei, or "rolling egg," for obvious reasons.