The world's leading luxury carmaker BMW marked the 100th anniversary of its founding on Monday by unveiling a model of a futuristic supercar.

BMW says its vision for mobility of future is a vehicle drawing on innovation and consumer expectations that includes a self-driving capacity and a digital "companion" designed to anticipate the driver's thoughts.

"The company has constantly developed and sometimes even reinvented itself," said BMW chief executive Harald Krueger looking back at BMW's history.

"As we move into the future, that's not going to change," said Krueger with BMW's trademark blue-and-white roundel - now one of the world's most recognisable corporate logos.

Krueger said BMW's as-yet unnamed car of the future could begin rolling off the carmaker's conveyer belts in the next 20 or 30 years.

Under the motto "The next 100 years," BMW's anniversary is to be marked with a pause in production at its 30 plants around the world to allow the Munich-based company's about 120,000 employees to join in the festivities.

The highpoint of Monday's celebrations will be a giant party at Munich's giant Olympiahalle arena, where about 2,000 guests are expected.

This includes the carmaker's major shareholders – brother and sister Susanne Klatten and Stefan Quandt - as well as the group's top management, dealers, business partners and prominent celebrities.

Another 30,000 employees are to follow the celebrations at another event in the vast Allianz arena.

Chancellor Angela Merkel sent a video message to mark the anniversary after she was forced to cancel her attendance at the event because of an emergency migration summit being held in Brussels.

Some highlights from the carmaker's history:

1916: The company is founded on March 7 to make aircraft engines in World War I and is later named Bayerische Motorenwerke (BMW).

1923: BMW builds its first motorcycle.

1928: The carmaker produces its first car after purchasing a factory in the eastern German city of Eisenach.

1932: BMW's six-cylinder 303 model hits the market, complete with the so-called kidney grill that is now associated with the carmaker.

Mid-1940s: BMW employs about 25,000 forced labour and concentration camp inmates after joining Hitler's war effort in supplying engines to the Nazis' arms industry.

1950s: The company almost goes bankrupt as it battles to compete with Daimler, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz cars.

1959: An investor named Herbert Quandt steps in to save BMW, buying almost 50 per cent of the carmaker. Members of the Quandt family remain major shareholders in BMW and are among the richest people in Germany, according to the US magazine Forbes.

2005: BMW overtakes Mercedes-Benz as the world's leading luxury brand, generating 80 billion euros (88 billion dollars) a year in sales.

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