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Automobile Prices and Quality: Did the Gasoline Price Increase Change Consumer Tastes in the U.S.?


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  • Makoto Ohta
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    Did the 1973 and 1979 gasoline price rises change consumer views about the relative quality of different cars? This question is investigated by testing the null hypothesis that imputed characteristic prices have remained constant over time. A hedonic model that takes gasoline costs into account is developed and some of its theoretical implications are outlined.The statistical methods required for its estimation and for the testing of the particular null hypothesis are discussed and then used to analyze the prices of U.S. passenger cars in the used market during 1970-1981. If one does not take gasoline costs into account in such computations one must conclude that consumers changed their relative evaluations of car qualities significantly in both periods: October 1973 to April 1974 and April to October1979. However, when gasoline efficiency terms are included in the model,the estimated relative qualities are much more stable over time, with no period showing significant changes, and it is possible to maintain the "constancy of tastes" assumption. Since the main model adjusts not only for the effect of gasoline price increases but also for the effects of changes in other prices and income, we develop two alternative approaches which adjust solely for the increase in gasoline prices. Applying these to the 1979 period we find that a significant fraction of the coefficient change that did occur during this period can be attributed to the gasoline price increase alone,indicating that this is indeed a major component of what happened.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 1211.

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    Date of creation: Oct 1983
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    Publication status: published as Ohta, Makoto and Zvi Griliches. "Automobile Prices and Quality: Did the Gasoline Price Increases Change Consumer Tastes in the U.S.?" Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, Vol. 4, No. 2, (April 1986), pp. 187-198.
    Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1211

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    1. Robert J. Gordon, 1990. "The Measurement of Durable Goods Prices," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number gord90-1, July.
    2. Muellbauer, John, 1974. "Household Production Theory, Quality, and the "Hedonic Technique."," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 64(6), pages 977-94, December.
    3. Makoto Ohta & Zvi Griliches, 1976. "Automobile Prices Revisited: Extensions of the Hedonic Hypothesis," NBER Chapters, in: Household Production and Consumption, pages 325-398 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Daly, George G & Mayor, Thomas H, 1983. "Reason and Rationality during Energy Crises," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(1), pages 168-81, February.
    5. Berndt, Ernst R., 1983. "Quality adjustment in empirical demand analysis," Working papers, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management 1397-83., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
    6. Lucas, Robert E B, 1975. "Hedonic Price Functions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, Western Economic Association International, vol. 13(2), pages 157-78, June.
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    Cited by:
    1. C. Lanier Benkard & Patrick Bajari, 2003. "Hedonic Price Indexes with Unobserved Product Characteristics, and Application to PC's," NBER Working Papers 9980, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Robert C. Feenstra, 1986. "Gains from Trade in Differentiated Products: Japanese Compact Trucks," NBER Working Papers 1978, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Benkard, C. Lanier & Bajari, Patrick, 2003. "Hedonic Price Indexes with Unobserved Product Characteristics, and Application to PC's," Research Papers, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business 1841, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    4. Chiraz Karamti & Lukasz Grzybowski, 2010. "Hedonic study on mobile telephony market in France: pricing–quality strategies," Netnomics, Springer, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 255-289, October.
    5. Robert Witt, 1997. "The demand for car fuel efficiency: some evidence for the UK," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 29(9), pages 1249-1254.
    6. Hyberg, Bengt & Uri, Noel D. & Oliveira, Valencia, 1996. "The quality characteristics of Japanese soybean imports," Japan and the World Economy, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 8(1), pages 81-98, March.


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