As the market for new vehicles continues to improve and crossover and pickup sales have caught fire, it's perhaps no surprise that the sales of all-wheel-drive (and four-wheel-drive) vehicles are also on the rise. Using data provided by Polk, The Detroit News points out that nearly one-third (31.3 percent) of all new vehicles sold this year through September were equipped with either all- or four-wheel drive. This is up from slightly more than a quarter (26.3 percent) during the same nine-month span of 2008.

While the article suggests that buyers are opting for AWD in search of safer vehicles, it also points to increased popularity among brands offering many AWD vehicles (like Subaru and Audi) as a factor in the equation. Of course, there's also the simple fact that more and more vehicles are being offered today with all-wheel drive. This larger number includes, of course, America's ever-increasing crossover pool, but the trend is also due to luxury sedans like the Buick LaCrosse and Jaguar XF, both of which are newly available with all-wheel drive.

Subaru offers all of its models – except the BRZ – with standard AWD, and its sales are up 28.3 so far this year, while the article also reports that 88 percent of Audi's vehicles sold in 2012 were equipped with its Quattro system. This trend figures to continue, too, as more automakers are introducing additional CUVs with the availability of all-wheel drive.

One of the more interesting aspects to this data, though, is revealed in a graph that shows that as car sales slid during the recession, the percentage of all-wheel-drive vehicles sold grew rapidly. This, despite there usually being a cost premium associated with such technology. From 2008 through 2011, sales of AWD vehicles increased by more than 4 percent during years that the industry as a whole was shrinking.