Being an accessible prestige-badge car, the 3 Series’ reputation grew from its humble beginnings, winning numerous awards and honors throughout the automotive world. By the early 21st century, the E46 3 Series was the best-selling car of its segment (premium middle class cars),as commonplace in Asia and America as in Europe, while maintaining its prestigious brand and image.
The 3 series has also maintained BMW’s racing heritage. The M version of the 3 series, M3, debuted in the 1980s as an industry first “track ready” luxury sports car (FIA Group A racing). Marketed as a daily driver and a track ready race car, the M3 grew in popularity quickly; this has furthered the 3 series brand awareness as a class-leading sport sedan.
In 1968, an article appeared in Car and Driver praising the BMW 2002 for its European style and driving characteristics. Historically, BMW got its start in the American market in New York City when Austrian born importer Max Hoffman began selling imported BMWs.
Max Hoffman, often referred to as the “father” of the import car business, was a famous New York Car Dealer/Importer who is largely responsible for the US sports car resurgence of the 40’s and 50’s. He imported sports cars to the US and made them available after WW II. Hoffman helped sponsor amateur sports car racing in the US and encouraged the European manufacturers to respond to the emerging US sports car market. Hoffman influenced BMW product marketing (as well as other German made cars )in the US for many years.
The success of the 2002 led to the founding of BMW North America in 1975. And shortly thereafter a new model was introduced that furthered this concept of performance and practicality – the BMW 3 Series. This new model was a direct descendant of the 2002. The 3 series is the most successful of BMW models, a trend that will likely continue well into the future.
3 Series vehicles can be largely differentiated by the underlying platform:
- BMW E21 – (1975–1983) 3 Series
- BMW E30 – (1984–1994) 3 Series
- BMW E36 – (1992–1998) 3 Series
- BMW E46 – (1999–2006) 3 Series
- BMW E90 – (2005–) 3 Series Sedan
- BMW E91 – (2006-) 3 Series Wagon
- BMW E92 – (2007-) 3 Series Coupé
- BMW E93 – (2007-) 3 Series Convertible