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Franz Josef Popp : biography

January 14, 1886 - July 29, 1954

Franz Josef Popp (January 14, 1886 in Vienna; July 29, 1954 in Stuttgart) was one of three men responsible for the founding of BMW AG and the First General Director of BMW AG from 1922 to 1942.

A number of different candidates have been put forward as the “founders” of BMW AG. In the absence of Karl Rapp, Gustav Otto, Max Friz or Camillo Castiglioni the company would probably never have been born. However, Franz Josef Popp can lay claim to being the prime force in the development of the mobility company we know today. He was “General Director” of the company from its foundation until he was forced to relinquish his position in 1942.

The “General Director”

Appointment Certificate naming Popp as General Director of BMW GmbH in 1917 After the success of the BMW IIIa aeromotor, it was decided that Karl Rapp's contract be terminated by the managing board of Rapp Motorenwerke.D. Kiley (2004)Driven: Inside BMW, the Most Admired Car Company in the Worldp.50;John Wiley and Sons ;ISBN 0-471-26920-4 Franz Josef Popp was appointed as managing director of the company, while at the same time, the name of the company was changed from Rapp Motorenwerke into Bayerische Motoren Werke GmbH. This was intended to signal a new beginning to the outside world. Following conversion into a joint-stock company, he was head of the Bayerische Motoren Werke as Chairman of the Board of Management with the title General Director. At the end of the First World War, Popp was responsible for switching the young company from aircraft engine production to peacetime production. With this aim in mind, he worked towards creating a link with Knorr Bremse AG, and from 1919 onwards, the factory started manufacturing Knorr brakes for the Bavarian Railway. In 1922, Popp was responsible for transferring the most important patents, machinery and personnel for engine manufacture “to the umbrella of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG”, together with the company name “Bayerische Motoren Werke AG”.Handelsregister-Auszüge July 6, 1922 He was assisted in this endeavor by the Austrian financier Camillo Castiglioni. In this way he was able to break free from Knorr Bremse AG and start up engine construction once more.

Early years

Popp was born in Vienna in 1886 and in 1901 his family moved to Brno where he completed his university entrance qualification at the local grammar school. He went on to study mechanical and electrical engineering at the local Technical College and qualified with a degree in engineering in 1909. When he returned to Vienna, Franz Josef Popp joined the Viennese company AEG-Union as an electrical engineer. He soon became head of the department for “Electric Trains and Locomotives”, and one of his responsibilities was to develop electric locomotives for the Mittenwald railway. At the start of the First World War, Popp joined the Kaiserliche und Konigliche Luftfahrtruppen or "K.u.K. Luftfahrtruppen" (Austro-Hungarian Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops) as a marine engineer at the Pula base on the Adriatic Sea (in present-day Croatia). This is where he had spent his military service as a one-year volunteer during his course of studies. However, three weeks later he was ordered back to Vienna to oversee construction for aircraft engine production, initially at AEG and then at the Austro-Daimler works in Wiener Neustadt. In this capacity, Popp traveled to Germany a number of times to visit the biggest aircraft engine manufacturers in the Reich- Daimler, NAG and Benz. The purpose was to explore opportunities for the production under license of German prototypes at the Austro-Daimler works. Unfortunately, these exploratory talks came to nothing. The Austro-Daimler works went on to develop their own new 12-cylinder aircraft engine for the Austrian navy, although there was not sufficient capacity available for production of this engine. It was necessary to find a production facility that was in a position to manufacture the engine in the quantities required by the military authorities. While he was serving in Pola, Popp had got to know the Rapp Motorenwerke (Rapp Engine Works) in Munich. This company had the necessary skilled workforce and production facilities for manufacturing aircraft engines, but it lacked a competitive product since its engines were not successful as aircraft engines. Given this scenario, Popp regarded the Rapp Engine works as an ideal production facility for manufacturing the 12-cylinder Austro-Daimler engine. He lobbied hard for this solution and was successful in convincing the responsible authorities to take up his suggestion. In 1916, he was dispatched to Munich as the representative of the Austrian Navy to supervise production under license at the Rapp Motorenwerke (Rapp Motor Works). However, Popp was worried about unsatisfactory decisions and targets set by the technical and commercial managers. He became concerned that volumes determined contractually would not be complied with. To ensure compliance with production targets, Popp effectively began to take on the role of factory manager. Popp ensured that Max Friz, a very talented young engineer at Daimler who had recently applied for a position, was hired by Rapp (Friz and Rapp were colleagues together at Austro-Daimler) . Popp understood that Rapp Motorenwerke very much needed a chief engineer with new ideas on making aircraft engines.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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