The Detroit Free Press reports that AWD is growing exponentially in the U.S., as buyers are increasingly associating the system as both a performance enhancer and a safety technology. In fact, Paul Lacy of IHS Automotive contends that AWD cars and crossovers will occupy 30 percent of vehicle sales by 2015. That's an amazing statistic if it turns out to be true, as AWD is pricey and at the same time cuts down on fuel efficiency.
Most crossovers already offer the technology, and the luxury automakers have embraced AWD with open arms. The system currently accounts for 50 percent of all Cadillac sales, while Lincoln offers AWD in each of its models. The far more established Quattro system now accounts for 80 percent of all new Audi models sold.
Adding AWD to luxury vehicles makes sense because customers who are paying $35,000 or more for a new vehicle are more likely to be able to afford a $1,000 to $3,000 option. At the same time, AWD is becoming more common on mainstream vehicles like the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 300. And it may not be a coincidence that Subaru sales have skyrocketed over the past couple years, since every Subie comes standard with symmetrical all-wheel-drive.
Suppliers are also working on AWD systems that can still deliver terrific traction along with improved fuel economy. Future systems will be lighter and more efficient, and Haldex is developing an hybrid AWD system that delivers power to the rear axle electrically.