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More Buyers Demand All-Wheel-Drive Cars

January 26, 2004

Seduced by the go-anywhere, do-anything capabilities associated with SUVs, consumers have developed an affinity for intrepidness, according to the Detroit News.Automakers, according to the News, are poised to satisfy the shift in preference by selling more cars that transfer engine power to all four corners -- commonly called all-wheel drive. By 2006, car buyers seeking all-wheel drive will have their choice of 42 models -- a 62 percent increase over the 2004 model year, the News noted. By 2008, the number of all-wheel-drive cars on the road will double by today's count, according to Visteon Corp., a supplier of all-wheel-drive technology.For automakers, the rising demand for all-wheel-drive cars means greater profit potential, the News said. All-wheel-drive systems now cost up to $1,500 as optional equipment.The growing interest in all-wheel drive comes as automakers are rolling out a parade of new cars that bring back rear-wheel drive -- the preferred technology of automotive enthusiasts because it offers smoother handling and better cornering. According to the News, automakers face a marketing challenge with rear-drive cars after spending years convincing consumers that front-wheel drive is better on bad roads. All-wheel drive, the News noted, essentially offers the best of both worlds."The all-wheel-drive car is physically planted at all four corners," said Phil Martens, Ford Motor Co.'s group vice president of North America product creation. This aids handling inall conditions, not just bad weather.Just more than 50 percent of American women and 55 percent of their male counterparts said they aspired to own vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive. The reasons were both emotional and rational, according to a recent study. The "feeling of freedom" was cited, along withthe obvious attraction -- better traction, the News said.
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