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Car Notches: Strategic Automaker Responses to Fuel Economy Policy

  • James M. Sallee
  • Joel Slemrod

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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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
Date of revision:
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
Note: EEE PE
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  1. Thomas Klier & Joshua Linn, 2012. "New‚Äźvehicle characteristics and the cost of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 43(1), pages 186-213, 03.
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  7. 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.
  8. Emmanuel Saez, 1999. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," NBER Working Papers 7366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Soren T. Anderson & James M. Sallee, 2011. "Using Loopholes to Reveal the Marginal Cost of Regulation: The Case of Fuel-Economy Standards," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(4), pages 1375-1409, June.
  10. Soren T. Anderson & Ian W. H. Parry & James M. Sallee & Carolyn Fischer, 2011. "Automobile Fuel Economy Standards: Impacts, Efficiency, and Alternatives," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 5(1), pages 89-108, Winter.
  11. 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.
  12. James M. Sallee, 2014. "Rational Inattention and Energy Efficiency," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(3), pages 781 - 820.
  13. 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.
  14. Turrentine, Thomas S. & Kurani, Kenneth S., 2007. "Car buyers and fuel economy?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(2), pages 1213-1223, February.
  15. 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.
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