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.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 140 Comments
      cooker263
      • 1 Year Ago
      AWD has become less expensive and more fuel-efficient. For someone that sees snow during the year, it's one of those things that you probably only really need 2% of the time. Still - it's worth it for me. Just remember - it doesn't mean you can't still get stuck.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @cooker263
        Agreed. The gas mileage hit on a modern AWD car/wagon is a lot less than it used to be.
        john96xlt
        • 1 Year Ago
        @cooker263
        It is also more mainstream, and on more affordable models. Aside from Subaru and Audi, Ford and Chrysler have offered AWD mid and full sized sedans for a while now.
        Snark
        • 1 Year Ago
        @cooker263
        I live at 7500 feet in Colorado, at the end of a dirt road with 12% grades and infrequent plowing. I use it on a daily basis in the winter - and the fuel economy penalty isn't bad at all.
      RG1527
      • 1 Year Ago
      My commute has a lot of back road hilly terrain and AWD has definitively made my commute safer. Off camber turns + snow and ice are not fun. With my Last FWD car i did fine actually but had to really be extra careful and a few of the hills were a bit sketchy at times. My last RWD car (2nd gen rx7) was fun in the snow but a bit too white knuckle for my tastes.
        normc32
        • 1 Year Ago
        @RG1527
        You can get away with anything else on flat lands but on hilly roads AWD is a must!
      bookemd
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm in the market for a cheap economical vehicle with AWD, and Subaru is definitely on my list. They do a great job, and keep it up!
      MistyGreen
      • 1 Year Ago
      The increase during the recession makes plenty of sense. FWD probably increased too. Cars were bought out of necessity, not for fun during those years.
      I-Like-Physics--Do-u
      What I think most (not all) AWD owners fail to realize is that ALL cars are 4-wheel-brakes (or All-wheel-brakes) and ALL cars have 2 wheels steering. AWD helps the "going" part of the equation but does not help you stop or turn. I am going to go out on a limb and say most accidents are due to the lack of stopping ability or lack of turning ability. I can't think of a situation where an accident occurred due to the lack of "going" ability. I think AWD is largely a safety impediment due to psychological reasons. You don't get stuck in the driveway anymore so you rationalize you don't need snow tires, then you drive down the road without a problem getting up to speed without the normal feedback you would have to tell you that you had low traction....Then you drive faster than your all-season tires can stop you and to the ditch/tree/pond/another car you crash into. If you had FWD w/ snow tires you at least would have enhanced stopping & turning. Nobody has mentioned that the big state owned plow trucks, sanders/salters, etc are all rear wheel drive... They put aggressive treads on and then put chains on if it gets real bad. If AWD is the solution wouldn't it be on the big trucks that drive through the snowstorm? There has been a lot of discussion in this forum about the relative benefits of snow tires vs. AWD and in reality they are different things with different purposes - AWD is not a replacement for snow tires. One blogger challenged anybody with a FWD w/ snow tires that his AWD w/ all-seasons will get "up to speed" quicker. He may be right - but who cares? Are we comparing 0-60 times in the snow? I am afraid of not stopping in time or not being able to turn when I need to. What is he afraid of? Bears? Getting chased by the abominable snowman?
        Jerry
        • 1 Year Ago
        @I-Like-Physics--Do-u
        Hate to burst your bubble but out here the state and the county use awd plow trucks.from Oshkosh and other manufacturers. Nothing beats the sight of one of these with a 12 foot wing plow rolling along at 25 mph just tossing the snow away !
        mikemaj82
        • 1 Year Ago
        @I-Like-Physics--Do-u
        You are wrong sir. The new Acura RLX has all-wheel steering.
        colin.shark
        • 1 Year Ago
        @I-Like-Physics--Do-u
        This +1 Billion. In general, you can't trust people to use the correct automotive equipment for the job.
        Blau
        • 1 Year Ago
        @I-Like-Physics--Do-u
        I'm sorry, do you live in California and think you are the expert on snow driving? If you have a light car and have absolutely any incline, there is no substitute for snow ans ice driving than having awd. Got a driveway with an incline? You don't have to shovel like half the time. I've never gotten stuck in the snow with my impreza but I've pushed my neighbors (2 of them) out of stuck positions where you need a shovel or mat to get going even with snows. I can drive right through unless it's taller than my front factory under spoiler. I agree, awd is not for highway driving but being able to maneuver your car so much easier has saved so much hassle of real winter driving.
        hanna vanhoose
        • 1 Year Ago
        @I-Like-Physics--Do-u
        I want to add this to your very good post here. I have a 2012 chevy traverse and I really love driving the car but I just had an unhappy experience with it during some ice and 6 inches of snow. it has that so called all wheel drive and I got stuck in my very long driveway and ended up sliding off the drive till I hit the yard part and really got buried in the mud. my brother in law came over and had to pull me out. I also was not satisfied with the way it handled on the road in the snow. all wheel drive certainly doesn't do all they crack it up to do for sure. I used to have a chevy blazer years ago with 4 wheel drive and it never got stuck. I really miss it.
      me
      • 1 Year Ago
      Actually I sees lot of SUV and cuv that are front wheel drive.... Just feels like an oxymoron
      WAYNE
      • 1 Year Ago
      I have AWD on my Mazda CX-5 which beat the hell out of the push button 4 wheel drive on my 1986 Bronco11 but I just can't understand how I made it through the 60s and 70s in my rear wheel drive cars.Oh right I use to spin tires in the snow while on flat ground.Can't tell you how many times people pushed me to get me started and I pushed other cars to get them started.Glad I don't have to do that anymore as if I could
      foxtrot685
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think this has more to do with the fuel consumption drop over a similar FWD model has been reduced in the past few years. Remember when choosing AWD over FWD dropped the combined MPG 3-4 MPG? Now its about 1-2 MPG in most cars.
      carcrazed4life
      • 1 Year Ago
      No longer is AWD simply a solution for "winter weather." More performance oriented vehicles are using AWD to help extend the ability of traction (during acceleration, turning, etc) as well as allow more variability of weight transfer under partial and full load. The best evolution of this may yet to be the "sh-awd hybrid" setup Acura will be coming out with in the RLX and NSX. So just as people spend extra on added tech packages for added safety, more people are opting for AWD.
        Timothy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @carcrazed4life
        I agree car crazed . Big RWD fan myself but love the WRX my wife has . Really made me think twice when we had a rare ice storm in Dallas. Car handled like it wasn't **** and I was blasting through just about anything, granted you still have to know how to drive it ! The box engine on those things are pretty wicked though .
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Timothy
          [blocked]
      FutureDoc
      • 1 Year Ago
      I pin this more on the fact that new cars are becoming "luxury" items more and more. And when it is a luxury item, then why not go for something that is a bit more than necessary for most drivers for the 0.1% time you might need it. Used car are more common "entry/mid level" purchases now and new is a luxury option... so why not spring for the AWD.
      TopGun
      • 1 Year Ago
      Safety and AWD are, IMO, an oxymoron. AWD helps to accelerate…but it does nothing to help you slow down. In fact, the extra weight hinders stopping, and the excellent acceleration creates a false sense of traction.
        icemilkcoffee
        • 1 Year Ago
        @TopGun
        That is not true. A good AWD system (like Subaru) provides ENGINE BRAKING to all 4 wheels. Much less chance of a spin out when you lift your foot off the gas.
          flychinook
          • 1 Year Ago
          @icemilkcoffee
          Wait, what? The limiting factor in braking is traction. Engine braking doesn't suddenly give your car more traction.
        Jasonn
        • 1 Year Ago
        @TopGun
        Sounds like you know nothing of AWD... Yes it helps with acceleration and yes it does nothing for stopping, but overall control of the vehicle is vastly improved. You need to own a subaru or an audi to really appreciate what AWD can do for you.
        cooker263
        • 1 Year Ago
        @TopGun
        True that it can inspire overconfidence, but not always the case. I think the weight issue is minimal for stopping - good snow tires and a safe driver are bigger relative factors.
        Timothy
        • 1 Year Ago
        @TopGun
        Yyou obviously don't own one or... are just a terrible driver in general . I was scootin around in Texas ice storm like it was summer rain .
        • 1 Year Ago
        @TopGun
        [blocked]
        SloopJohnB
        • 1 Year Ago
        @TopGun
        There's a reason Audi gets penalized in every race venue it competes in by essentially banning Quattro.
        ChrisD
        • 1 Year Ago
        @TopGun
        Understeer is safer than oversteer. Most drivers aren't able to recover from a spin as people naturally slam the brakes when things get hairy which you shouldn't necessarily do in a RWD car.
      Man of men!
      • 1 Year Ago
      Only people who buy AWD vehicles are those who do not appreciate the RWD burnouts and cornering advantage offer by RWD. The perfect vehicle is RWD, 500 horsepower+ and 4 speed manual tran! You cannot beat that! Just perfect!
        Nick Allain
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Man of men!
        Evo/STi owners beg to differ.
        Hernan
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Man of men!
        . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ________ . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . ,.-‘”. . . . . . . . . .``~., . . . . . . . .. . . . . .,.-”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .“-., . . . . .. . . . . . ..,/. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ”:, . . . . . . . .. .,?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\, . . . . . . . . . /. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ,} . . . . . . . . ./. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ,:`^`.} . . . . . . . ./. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ,:”. . . ./ . . . . . . .?. . . __. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . :`. . . ./ . . . . . . . /__.(. . .“~-,_. . . . . . . . . . . . . . ,:`. . . .. ./ . . . . . . /(_. . ”~,_. . . ..“~,_. . . . . . . . . .,:`. . . . _/ . . . .. .{.._$;_. . .”=,_. . . .“-,_. . . ,.-~-,}, .~”; /. .. .} . . .. . .((. . .*~_. . . .”=-._. . .“;,,./`. . /” . . . ./. .. ../ . . . .. . .\`~,. . ..“~.,. . . . . . . . . ..`. . .}. . . . . . ../ . . . . . .(. ..`=-,,. . . .`. . . . . . . . . . . ..(. . . ;_,,-” . . . . . ../.`~,. . ..`-.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..\. . /\ . . . . . . \`~.*-,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..|,./.....\,__ ,,_. . . . . }.>-._\. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .|. . . . . . ..`=~-, . .. `=~-,_\_. . . `\,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\ . . . . . . . . . .`=~-,,.\,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . `:,, . . . . . . . . . . . . . `\. . . . . . ..__ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .`=-,. . . . . . . . . .,%`>--==`` . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _\. . . . . ._,-%. . . ..`\
        rsholland
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Man of men!
        Welcome to 1970.
        Big Rocket
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Man of men!
        I think some of you missed his sarcasm. "4 speed manual tran" was the dead giveaway.
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