Autos and the National Industrial Recovery Act: Evidence on Industry Complementarities
This paper investigates the motivations for, and implications of, the Automobile Industry code under the National Industrial Recovery Act. The amended code contained a provision calling for automobile producers to alter the timing of new model introductions and the annual automobile show as a means of regularizing employment in the industry. After documenting key features of the automobile industry during the 1920s and 1930s and outlining the provisions of the automobile code, we analyze two models of the annual automobile cycle to explain the observations. In one model, the NIRA code simply codified a change in industry behavior that would have taken place anyway due to a change in fundamentals in the economy during the early 1930s. The competing model introduces a coordination problem into the determination of the equilibrium timing of new model introductions. Our analysis of this period provides evidence against the hypothesis that changes in fundamentals led to the dramatic changes in the seasonal pattern of production and sales starting in 1935. Instead, it appears that the National Industrial Recovery Act succeeded in coordinating activity on an alternative equilibrium.
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