The effects of fuel prices and vehicle sales on fuel‐saving technology adoption in passenger vehicles
Thomas Klier, Joshua Linn, and Yichen C. Zhou
Although economic theory suggests that both sales and fuel costs affect technology adoption by vehicle manufacturers, there is very little empirical evidence on either effect. We document a strong connection between a vehicle’s sales and its energy efficiency. Using a demographics‐driven demand shifter to isolate demand‐side changes in sales, we find that a one standard deviation increase in sales raises efficiency by 0.2%, compared with a mean improvement rate of 1.4% per year between 1997 and 2013. Higher fuel prices also increase technology adoption directly by increasing willingness to pay for fuel cost savings. The results have two implications: manufacturers will continue to focus technological improvements on top selling vehicles; and fuel taxes will have larger effects on technology adoption than fuel economy standards and feebates.