Early on in the Isetta's rumor-filled life as a concept car there was much talk about a possible BMW-Fiat partnership. By sharing a platform, the Fiat and Bimmer hoped for similar proportions, but unique surface development and brand-specific design cues. The agreement was reportedly made as part of the same deal that will see a new Mini model share the Alfa Romeo Mi.To's platform.
While the Topolino would have been sold in Europe only, the Isetta has been intended for American consumption (and EPA appeasement). The rear-engine vehicle is billed to come Stateside in 2011 or 2012, just in time to meet Californi's laws that would require major car manufacturers to produce a certain amount of zero emission vehicles.
But after the extensive rumors of a BMW-Fiat partnership dissipated, a new rumor emerged that BMW would be instead turning to Toyota for its iQ platform. This arrangement seems more likely as the iQ has already been getting around other automaker's garages, as seen with the recent Aston Martin Cygnet.
Isetta is the result of BMW's "Project i unit," which has been working largely independently to develop electric car technology. BMW has not released any specifics on this technology, but it is expected that some form of pure EV or hybrid technology will eventually make its way into the Isetta production car.
Power for the Isetta will come from a lithium-ion battery pack with a range of about 100 miles as a pure-EV. BMW is also developing a range of gas and diesel engines for the Isetta, although those variants will likely be reserved for developing regions - particularly China.
The production Isetta will likely to seat three passengers, including the driver. This should give Isetta the upper hand over Daimler's Smart ForTwo.
At this time the latest word from BMW is that the Isetta will be launched as part of a new, fourth brand for BMW as part of Project i. But, BMW explains that it will be a sub-brand, and more along the lines of the ///M branding with its own engineers and designers, but still under the BMW brand.
The final name for the project i brand has not been confirmed.