The brand and its vehicles have come to exemplify BMW's ambitious slogan: "Ultimate Driving Machine." No other mainstream marque, worldwide, is so associated with pure performance. Bayerische Motoren Werke AG was founded in 1916 as an aircraft manufacturer -- a heritage still reflected in the stylistic propeller depicted in the circular BMW logo -- but switched to motorcycle production after World War I. After World War II, BMW began building motorcycles again. Although fledgling automotive operations almost went belly-up in 1959, they survived. In 1962, BMW began specializing in and exporting a line of compact sedans and coupes, starting with the 1500 model and continuing through the last 2002s in 1977. These cars helped pave the way for BMW to become an international brand in the Eighties, beginning with its famed 3 Series. This vehicle gained a place in the U.S. cultural conscience as the dream purchase of every ambitious, white-collar, red-blooded American male. "Bimmers" continue to occupy a unique place in American vernacular and perception today. Meanwhile, BMW has stretched its lineup of sedans in size and price up through the flagship executive sedan, the 7 Series, still maintaining the brand's tight association with unadulterated performance. Z3 and Z4 roadsters also helped that cause. But lately, BMW has introduced SUVs and crossovers that have strained brand identity a bit.