Last week Richard Thaler won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work on humans’ lack of rational decision making. When asked how he would spend the $1.1 million prize Thaler had the perfect answer: “I will try to spend it as irrationally as possible.”
Coming from a 72-year-old academic, it was a funny line. But it also reminded me of the not-quite-as-humorous but very irrational behavior of U.S. auto companies when dealing with the future of the transportation industry.
On one hand, not a week goes by without a different carmaker announcing another investment in the trifecta of environmentally friendly mobility options: electric, autonomous, and shared vehicles. Some, like Volvo and Jaguar, have declared that their entire fleet will be “electrified” in the near future. Others, including Volkswagen, Mercedes, BMW, and GM, seem to be in an innovation drag race.
But these same companies are simultaneously fighting against environmental protections that encourage these goals.