All-Wheel-Drive Vehicles Grow in Popularity With Car Shoppers |

All-Wheel-Drive Vehicles Grow in Popularity With Car Shoppers

Just the Facts:
  • Crossovers with all-wheel drive are increasingly popular with car shoppers, according to Edmunds and industry statistics.
  • Buyers are willing to pay extra for the feature.
  • The auto industry has made strides in resolving issues that turn off potential buyers when it comes to all-wheel drive.

DETROIT — All-wheel-drive vehicles are gaining traction.

The boom in all-wheel-drive vehicles can be attributed to America's growing preference for crossovers in place of sedans, to buyers willing to pay extra for a feature that provides a safety benefit such as better traction and the automotive industry's efforts to resolve issues that turned off potential buyers.

Through October, all-wheel-drive vehicle sales, composed of cars and crossovers combined, accounted for 17.5 percent of light-duty vehicles sold in the United States. That's an increase of 4.4 percentage points since 2008, according to IHS Automotive and R.L. Polk new vehicle registration data.

"All-wheel-drive systems in general have gotten much better," said Dave Buchko, a BMW of North America spokesman. "Traditional trade-offs like poorer vehicle dynamics or increased fuel consumption are really no longer a factor."

Adds Jessica Caldwell, a senior analyst at Edmunds: "Crossovers are a big reason for the increase in all-wheel drive."

The crossover segment is essentially divided into subcompact, compact and midsized categories. However, it is the compact segment that has seen a sales explosion in recent years, particularly for all-wheel-drive models. Based on data from IHS Automotive/Polk, sales of all-wheel-drive compact crossovers for January through October this year increased nearly 79 percent compared to the same 10-month period in 2008. The Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape, Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4 are among the crossovers in this segment.

Additionally, buyers are increasingly checking off all-wheel drive when shopping for a sedan, coupe or wagon. The take rate on all-wheel-drive cars has increased 2.5 percentage points since 2008, to 8.7 percent of the overall light-vehicle market through October, according to IHS Automotive/Polk. Among the vehicles in that segment are the Ford Fusion, Cadillac XTS and Mercedes-Benz E class.

Interestingly, when four-wheel-drive, light-duty SUV and pickup truck sales are added to the mix, such as the Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Tacoma and Ford F-150, about 32 percent of Americans have opted for either all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicles, according to IHS Automotive/Polk data. That is about a 5-percentage point increase since 2008.

Jessica Caldwell doesn't believe all-wheel-drive popularity is a fluke.

"There is still probably room for growth," she said. "It is more expensive, but I think it will become cheaper as you put it on more cars. In that smaller crossover segment, there is probably room for more niches, more products. If that happens, then I think all-wheel-drive numbers will grow."

The luxury market has embraced the feature.

Cadillac spokesman David Caldwell (no relation) said: "It has grown to the point where it is part of the appeal of especially a premium car."

Every Cadillac model is available with all-wheel drive and through October about 50 percent of the brand's vehicles were sold with that feature, he said.

At BMW, 56 percent of the vehicles sold through October were equipped with all-wheel drive. The number rises to 93 percent at Audi, which has been marketing all-wheel drive, called "quattro," for decades.

Edmunds says: This is one instance where following the crowd may be a good idea.


  • shatner shatner Posts:

    The first winter storm, and all the new 4wd owners are stuck after skidding off the road. Yes all cars have 4 wheel braking, 4wd is no miracle solution for any icy road once you get going.

  • reminder reminder Posts:

    I have nearly 30 years of experience driving in the upstate NY. No substitute for being 'smooth'. Slow down, put on dedicated snow tires, pay attention to the feeling in the seat of your pants. I drove for years many rear drive cars well before anti-lock brakes and stability control were invented. Those new electronic nannies are excellent at saving your bacon, but I credit my time without the technology in forcing me to become a more skilled driver. Get skilled or get wrecked. Peace.

  • financeman2 financeman2 Posts:

    I have many years of experience driving rear and front wheel drive vehicles in adverse conditions and I have only occasionally wanted or needed AWD (deep snow). Although snow tires can generally alleviated the need for AWD, I enjoy the feature and (for me) eliminates the needs to switch to snow tires in the winter. True it does not help you stop, but it does provide a clear advantage when driving in deep snow or moving and control in slick conditions.

  • redgeminipa redgeminipa Posts:

    News like this is good news for anyone living in the snow belt. As more AWD/4WD vehicles are saturating the market, it should help drive down some of the artificial fall/winter price increases for those models on the used market. We've been fairly lucky so far this winter here in PA, but we usually get hit hardest in January through March... as it's snowing pretty good right now as I'm typing this. So much for snow on Christmas... haha.

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