I was talking with a colleague and the topic of cars came up. He said he needed to get another car because his lease was up on the one he had. He was thinking about getting an SUV instead of a sedan.
That reminded me of a great absurdity.
We want people to conserve and be energy efficient, but the American government has made at least two decisions that encourage the opposite behaviors.
1. We offer a business expenses tax write off for purchasing vehicles over 6000 pounds. As a result, thousands of business people are buying the heaviest SUVs. I have one friend who narrowed his list of options by whether they met the 6000 pound criteria for the tax write off. This law was originally intended to help farmers, now it’s helping Rolex wearing executives.
Why this is important – weight is what sucks up most of the gasoline. While engines have gotten more efficient, our SUV buying preferences have MORE than made up for any engineering gains. We are less efficient than ever and over 50% of all vehicle purchases are SUVs.
2. A good decision gone bad. The American public WAS rewarded with a tax cut for buying Toyota hybrid vehicles but because we bought so many, we have exceeded the quota set by the government and now the tax cut is reduced and it will eventually go away. People who really want Priuses will likely still get them, but the tax cut certainly helped some people make that decision.
There’s no quota on 6000 pound gas guzzlers, but there is on the hybrids.
I don’t want to get into any kind of political debate here, this is a statement about how our decisions drive behavior. Everyone is talking about energy concerns, but I don’t hear people talking about the decisions, laws, regulations, and incentives on the books that drive some decisions. If we really want people to buy more fuel efficient cars, we need to stop rewarding people for buying Land Rovers, Acura SUVs, Cadillac SUVs, and Hummers for "business" purposes.
Most of these vehicles never see a drop of mud unless they hit a rain-filled pothole on Wall Street.
As leaders we need to make sure that our decisions reinforce what we really want.