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BMW Cuts Off Toyota, GM and Ford in California

Actually, no. In a story that is all but certain to set the automotive world ablaze in strife, California's regulatory bureaucrats are on track to grant what appears to be a special status that in practice will apply to only one car -- made by BMW, nonetheless.

Yes, you read that right. After some time in the second half of 2013, the only car that will be sold in California with a gasoline back-up engine, and still eligible for the carpool lane sticker, will be a BMW.

Make no mistake: This is the ultimate trump card in the California market, and it would crush GM, Ford and Toyota -- among others.

The BMW model in question is called the i3. It will be sold in two versions -- one all-electric, and the other in a hybrid form where a small gasoline engine ensures you will never get stuck. But you will still be able to get a sticker to drive in the California carpool lane, even if the 40,000 hybrid stickers are gone, just like a pure electric car such as the Tesla.

I inquired with multiple people at the California Air Resources Board about this, and the details remain a little murky. There was a preliminary decision about this BMW exemption taken in January 2012, but the final approval to deliver this market-crushing loophole to BMW is subject to final verification, probably sometime in 2013 -- once BMW delivers the first final, completed car.

The BMW i3 has undergone testing for a long time already, and there are plenty of pictures of the car being "caught" in public available on the Internet for all of us to see. The factory is being built in Leipzig, Germany, and the project leader is Frank Weber. Yes, the same Frank Weber who was in charge of the Chevrolet Volt in Detroit 2006-2011. BMW hired him to Munich in April 2011.

What is so special about the BMW i3 that will allow it to be the only car of its kind to obtain the ultimate in California car sales trump card, the carpool lane sticker? The details here are a bit murky, but here is one thing: The range for the gasoline tank must not be larger than the all-electric range of the battery.

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