Although a bunch of automakers chose to sit out 2021, General Motors still saw value in advertising during this year’s Super Bowl. The automaker used the event to promote its electric vehicle aspirations, which include plans to have an all-electric lineup by 2035.
This project will be propelled by a new platform called Ultium and will start with next year’s Cadillac Lyriq and GMC Hummer EV. But you wouldn’t know that from the ad campaign—at least not at first. Instead, we learn that Will Ferrell is really angry with Norway, and he wants to prank the nation of more than five million by sending them all anchovy pizzas.
The cause of this rage? Norway is doing better at EV adoption than the US. Much better, in fact, as 54 percent of all new vehicles sold in the Scandinavian country in 2020 were electric. Here in the US, plug-in vehicles accounted for a mere 2.2 percent of the 14.6 million new cars and trucks sold last year (although in absolute numbers, the US still bought about three times as many EVs as Norway).
Things don’t go great for Ferrell; he ends up in Sweden instead of Norway, while his companions get lost in Finland. And the campaign spawned some replies. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg used Twitter to tell Ferrell that she does like pizza but would have preferred pineapple, and she also corrected him on the country’s population. The University of Agder got some digs in about the lack of a social safety net in the US. Ford of Norway actually did deliver some pizzas using a fleet of electric Mustang Mach-Es.
My favorite reaction to GM probably came from Audi, which makes Norway’s best-selling vehicle, the e-tron SUV. It fired back with a three-part reply starring Game of Thrones‘ Kristofer Hivju, who expressed incredulity that Ferrell wanted to punch Norwegians in the face; he also slapped some things with a dead salmon.
Meanwhile, Norway is on its way to becoming the first country on earth to require all new cars and SUVs to be zero-emissions vehicles by 2025. It’s getting there through a coordinated series of policies (that some have linked to 1990s Norwegian pop heart-throbs A-ha) that make buying an EV the smart thing to do.
How does Norway do it?
If you buy a new EV in Norway, unlike with a conventional car, you are exempt from purchase and import taxes, the 25 percent Value Added Tax, annual road tax, and reduced road and ferry tolls. EVs also get cheaper public parking than CO2-emitting vehicles and can drive in bus lanes.
Meanwhile, internal combustion-powered vehicles are subject to progressive taxation that takes into account the vehicle’s weight, average CO2 emissions, and NOx emissions as well. This makes conventionally powered cars and SUVs more expensive than their plug-in alternatives, an opposite approach to EV adoption policies in the US and elsewhere that subsidize the cost of EVs to make them price-competitive.
EV evangelists can be forgiven for looking at Norway and wondering why the US is doing so poorly in comparison. It helps to remember that the US is a nation of 331 million people with a very sclerotic national legislature and a high degree of opposition to pro-environment policymaking. Federal tax incentives meant to spur EV sales expire once a carmaker sells 200,000 plug-in vehicles, and even climate-aware California has rolled back some rebates.
On the other hand, Norway is a highly homogenous country with more than three million fewer inhabitants than New York City, not to mention a sovereign wealth fund of more than $1 trillion—ironically derived from Norway’s extraction and sale of oil in the North Sea.