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Car Notches: Strategic Automaker Responses to Fuel Economy Policy

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  • James M. Sallee
  • Joel Slemrod

Abstract

Notches --- where small changes in behavior lead to large changes in a tax or subsidy --- figure prominently in many policies, but have been rarely examined by economists. In this paper, we analyze a class of notches associated with policies aimed at improving vehicle fuel economy. We provide several pieces of evidence showing that automakers respond to notches in fuel economy policy by precisely manipulating fuel economy ratings so as to just qualify for more favorable treatment. We then describe the welfare consequences of this behavior and derive a welfare summary statistic applicable to many contexts.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 16604.

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Date of creation: Dec 2010
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Publication status: published as Sallee, James M. & Slemrod, Joel, 2012. "Car notches: Strategic automaker responses to fuel economy policy," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(11), pages 981-999.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:16604

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  1. James M. Sallee, 2011. "The Taxation of Fuel Economy," Tax Policy and the Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 1 - 38.
  2. Gloria Helfand & Ann Wolverton, 2011. "Evaluating the Consumer Response to Fuel Economy: A Review of the Literature," NCEE Working Paper Series 200904, National Center for Environmental Economics, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, revised Apr 2011.
  3. Emmanuel Saez, 2010. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 180-212, August.
  4. Meghan R. Busse & Christopher R. Knittel & Florian Zettelmeyer, 2009. "Pain at the Pump: The Differential Effect of Gasoline Prices on New and Used Automobile Markets," NBER Working Papers 15590, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Anderson, Soren & Parry, Ian & Sallee, James M. & Fischer, Carolyn, 2010. "Automobile Fuel Economy Standards: Impacts, Efficiency, and Alternatives," Discussion Papers dp-10-45, Resources For the Future.
  6. Raj Chetty & John N. Friedman & Tore Olsen & Luigi Pistaferri, 2011. "Adjustment Costs, Firm Responses, and Micro vs. Macro Labor Supply Elasticities: Evidence from Danish Tax Records," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 126(2), pages 749-804.
  7. Turrentine, Thomas S. & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2007. "Car buyers and fuel economy?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 1213-1223, February.
  8. Christopher R. Knittel, 2009. "Automobiles on Steroids: Product Attribute Trade-Offs and Technological Progress in the Automobile Sector," NBER Working Papers 15162, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Thomas H. Klier & Joshua Linn, 2008. "New vehicle characteristics and the cost of the corporate average fuel economy standard," Working Paper Series WP-08-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  10. Parry, Ian W.H. & Walls, Margaret & Harrington, Winston, 2007. "Automobile Externalities and Policies," Discussion Papers dp-06-26, Resources For the Future.
  11. Blundell, Richard, 2000. "Work Incentives and 'In-Work' Benefit Reforms: A Review," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 27-44, Spring.
  12. Soren T. Anderson & James M. Sallee, 2009. "Using Loopholes to Reveal the Marginal Cost of Regulation: The Case of Fuel-Economy Standards," Working Papers 0901, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, University of Chicago.
  13. Bovenberg, A.L. & Mooij, R.A. de, 1994. "Environmental levies and distortionary taxation," Open Access publications from Tilburg University urn:nbn:nl:ui:12-152985, Tilburg University.
  14. Arnold Harberger, 1995. "Tax Lore for Budding Reformers," NBER Chapters, in: Reform, Recovery, and Growth: Latin America and the Middle East, pages 291-310 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Kahn, James A, 1986. "Gasoline Prices and the Used Automobile Market: A Rational Expectations Asset Price Approach," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 323-39, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Thomas H. Klier & Joshua Linn, 2012. "Using vehicle taxes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions rates of new passenger vehicles: evidence from France, Germany, and Sweden," Working Paper Series WP-2012-09, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
  2. James M. Sallee, 2013. "Rational Inattention and Energy Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 19545, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Kenneth Small, 2011. "Energy Policies for Passenger Motor Vehicles," Working Papers 101108, University of California-Irvine, Department of Economics.
  4. Sara LaLumia & James M. Salle & Nicolas Turner, 2013. "New Evidence on Taxes and the Timing of Birth," Department of Economics Working Papers 2013-06, Department of Economics, Williams College.
  5. Boomhower, Judson & Davis, Lucas W., 2014. "A credible approach for measuring inframarginal participation in energy efficiency programs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 113(C), pages 67-79.
  6. Xavier d'Haultfoeuille & Pauline Givord & Xavier Boutin, 2012. "The environmental Effect of Green Taxation : The case of the french "Bonus/Malus"," Working Papers 2012-13, Centre de Recherche en Economie et Statistique.
  7. Ian W.H. Parry & John Norregaard & Dirk Heine, 2012. "Environmental Tax Reform," IMF Working Papers 12/180, International Monetary Fund.
  8. Adriaan Perrels & Tarja Tuovinen, 2012. "The Effectiveness of Differentiation of the Finnish Car Purchase Tax according to Carbon Dioxide Emission Performance," Research Reports 168, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).

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