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The Assembly rejected legislation Thursday to permanently exempt BMW from a state law requiring automakers to provide locksmiths with electronic code information enabling production of replacement keys.

Senate Bill 750, needing 41 votes to pass, died by a vote of 29-25, with 26 abstentions. Both Democrats and Republicans were split on the measure, proposed by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina.

"This is preferential treatment," Ben Hueso, D-San Diego, said of the legislation to accommodate a single foreign car maker.

Assemblyman Charles Calderon countered that allowing BMW to withhold code information from locksmiths would not be a big financial windfall to the foreign car maker.

"How much money could they make if they doubled the price of the key?" the West Covina Democrat said.

"Besides," added Calderon, a BMW owner, "it's kind of nice to know that your car is secure."

Six years ago, BMW received a temporary exemption from legislation passed to require automakers to provide electronic key code information to locksmiths so that stranded motorists could receive immediate assistance.

The exemption applied to any automaker that was the sole source of replacement keys for its cars in 2006 and that operated a telephone or electronic request line to serve customers' needs within 24 hours.

SB 750 would have made permanent the temporary exemption, which is due to expire in January.

Only BMW was actively seeking a permanent exemption, though automakers qualifying for the temporary exemption included Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche, according to a legislative committee analysis of SB 750.

BMW contends that its 24-hour key replacement request line is a suitable alternative and eliminates the possibility that its key codes could be stolen and used by theft rings.

The California Locksmiths Association counters that locksmiths carry $1 million in liability insurance and that transmittal of key code data is tracked, so an unscrupulous locksmith who made a duplicate key for theft could be identified quickly. For some luxury vehicles, key code data can be transmitted wirelessly, so locksmiths never see it, the group added.

Six years ago, BMW received a temporary exemption from legislation passed to require automakers to provide electronic key code information to locksmiths so that stranded motorists could receive immediate assistance.

The exemption applied to any automaker that was the sole source of replacement keys for its cars in 2006 and that operated a telephone or electronic request line to serve customers' needs within 24 hours.

SB 750 would have made permanent the temporary exemption, which is due to expire in January.

Only BMW was actively seeking a permanent exemption, though automakers qualifying for the temporary exemption included Mercedes Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche, according to a legislative committee analysis of SB 750.

BMW contends that its 24-hour key replacement request line is a suitable alternative and eliminates the possibility that its key codes could be stolen and used by theft rings.

The California Locksmiths Association counters that locksmiths carry $1 million in liability insurance and that transmittal of key code data is tracked, so an unscrupulous locksmith who made a duplicate key for theft could be identified quickly. For some luxury vehicles, key code data can be transmitted wirelessly, so locksmiths never see it, the group added



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