1-in-3 Cars Sold is Equipped With All-Wheel Drive

2011 Subaru ForesterAll- and four-wheel-drive vehicles have increased in popularity at an extreme rate throughout 2010.

Toward the tail end of 2010, all-wheel-drive-equipped vehicles represented more than 1-in-3 of new cars purchased. That’s about 36.2% of all car sales in November 2010, according to R.L. Polk & Co. That’s a five year high, says the automotive analysis firm.

A partial explanation for the gains has to do with big increases in sales at Subaru (+21%) and Audi (+20%) in 2010 compared to industry average gains (+7%). Subaru’s entire fleet is all-wheel drive, while Audi sells only the A3 and A4 with front-wheel drive standard.

Cadillac recently touted its all-wheel-drive gains, which currently makes up half of CTS sales and three-quarters of Escalade sales. Cold weather areas provide the strongest demand for all-wheel-drive vehicles, according to Cadillac. The increased consumer interest might also stem from hot new models that offer all-wheel drive — the Chevrolet Equinox and Jeep Grand Cherokee — or the increased fuel efficiency of all-wheel-drive systems. A 2011 Honda CR-V, for example, loses just 1 mpg in highway driving if you opt for four-wheel drive over front-wheel drive. However, all-wheel-drive models are generally more expensive than front- or rear-wheel-drive alternatives.

Toyota, Ford, Honda, Chevrolet and Nissan also experienced big gains in all-wheel-drive purchases in the same month, according to Polk.

AWD Mix Continues to Climb (R.L. Polk & Co.)

By Colin Bird | February 28, 2011 | Comments (23)
Tags: In The News



In most cases 4wd is unnecessary and wasteful. Adding all wheel drive to rear wheel drive vehicles in snowy areas makes sense, but in the vast majority of cases a front wheel drive car with the right tires will get you through winter just fine. Off roading is a different animal and 4wd is mandatory for that use.


A lady sits here, next to me, at work. She is looking only for v6 AWD car. I ask her, why? She has no clear answer. But one thing I know for a fact is that if 1 inch of snow falls down, she is working from home.

Is this survey distinguishing between 4WD and AWD?


Many will disagree with this, but I have the opinion that if AWD is available on a given vehicle, you buy it. Period. As most vehicles sold today are FWD, an AWD system negates the understeer and makes it handle far more neutrally. Let's face it, a FWD SUV or CUV makes absolutely no sense at all.


Soakee, I politely beg to differ. People will buy CUVs for whatever reason; but unless you are in a hilly snowy area, or go off-road; awd is a liability, it adds weight and therefore is a hazard in slippery conditions.



Ehh...you're definitely entitled to your opinion, but I feel a bit different about the matter. AWD is less fuel efficient (often by considerable margins) and also more expensive then FWD/RWD.


An addenda; with few exceptions (subaru, audi, acura [I think]) most awd is too little too late; it doesn't prevent the trouble and even makes the wrong decision in helping the driver get out of trouble.


I always bought FWD cars, but in snow country, which is where I live, AWD rules. Nothing like it to handle driving in 10+ inches of snow. Rarely do I take it off road, but the higher ground clearance is there should I need it.

It includes all systems. All wheel drive is technically the catch-all term.


Do I need to buy AWD/4WD for 2 snow storms per year? - NO. FWD will tackle 5 inches of snow well enough. Just don't stop under steep hills.


I think we should also take into account when they were sold. Chances are, there were a whole lot less convertibles sold in the winter, too.

Troy S.

Let's be honest. Many people buy vehicles that they simply don't need.

AWD and 4WD vehicles that are never operated in conditions for their design, big SUVs and Trucks that haul or tow NOTHING but AIR 85% or more of their life etc... all fit into this category.

I applaud AWD for its intended purpose but, if you're not gonna use it, don't waste your money....


I'ld have to say this can go either way. On the one hand, no you don't need AWD for areas that don't see a lot of snow/ice. Yet, at the same time if you are buying a performance vehicle (subaru STI, mitsu EVO, audi S cars, etc) you should consider AWD as a benefit rather than a liability in putting the power to the ground. I'm sorry, but a Mazda MS3 with 280 ft-lbs of torque going to the front wheels is like riding a bull in first, second, and even third gear with its FWD. RWD is an alternative, but then you are limited to using your car in only beautiful weather.

At the same time, if you're just an everyday Joe-Schmoe, then yes, AWD is too much for you. Also, with some AWD that send 100% of the power to one set of tires (front or rear) until the system senses lack of grip, you actually don't decrease your gas mileage by that much as you only have to contend with the extra weight of the vehicle, not the extra drag of an extra set of drivetrain components.

Jordan L

Lets not forget that most AWD vehicles are in reality 2WD. Unless you can lock the diffs or have some kind of limited slip device then you have 2WD. One in the front one in the back. Snow tires are a better solution for poor weather driving. AWD helps you get going but it won't help stop or turn.

Matt C

I bought a Subaru Outback and noticed a BIG difference in the handling in the 2 ice storms we had in Dallas this winter. One thing that is hasn't been mentioned is the AWD handling in nasty rain storms is far superior. I think it makes a difference in how the AWD system is designed. For a family vehicle (especially if the wife drives it a lot) I think the AWD is worth it.


Why have AWD equipped vehicles gained in popularity? Aside from the herd instinct one reason is so many folks simply don’t know how to drive in slippery conditions. I’ve seen a lot of weather related accidents, many of them SUV’s because the owner thought they had God like capabilities.

AWD equipped vehicles provide superior traction propelling a vehicle, beyond that they don’t stop any better which is where most folks get in trouble. FWD is more then satisfactory for most driving conditions. During my 30 + years of driving in New England winters I was never let down by a FWD vehicle.

No doubt there are those who would benefit from having the added pulling power of AWD but I seriously doubt that would apply to the vast numbers of buyers that apparently think they need it. AWD is more costly to buy, consumes more fuel and more expensive to repair. Taking a defensive driving course would probably be just as effective and a heck of a lot cheaper.

335D 4 me

I currently live in Pa and we have gotten lots of snow this winter and the last and I drive a BMW 335d with rear wheel drive and have had no trouble at all during these winter months it's not what you drive but how you drive


i witnessed plenty of accidents driving through dallas during the freeze/snow that we had the week prior to the superbowl. most of them were awd crossovers. the rwd pickups and fwd cars were driving slowly over the frozen freeways and the awd crossovers were speeding around like idiots..when it came time to stop their overweight stationwagons they failed and hit whoever/whatever was in front of them.

i had no issues driving my fwd prius on the ice covered roads, but then again, i've driven through 6 korean winters so i know how to drive in frozen conditions.


@ 35D 4 me,

You, unfortunately, are one of the rare few people who know how to drive properly and know what you are doing.

LMAO @ Tony's first comment. I totally agree that so many people (hopefully not just women!) are sheep and go for what "everybody" is doing. Many of us still live like we are still in high school.

One thing that AWD has over other setups -- fresh snow in an empty parking lot means a whole different experience in learning car control. :)

AWD Dave

AWD is a more expensive car, and uses a touch more gas. But AWD is way better all year around, especially in a smaller, lighter car, like my Impreza. When it rains, its like a heavy Cadillac, when its dry, its traction is super but handles like a RWD. Manual transmission and you have all the control you want or need in any condition. I view it as part of the overall package of buying a really smart, safe car. Enjoy!

All wheel drive is superior to regular trans axle or even 4 wheel drive.


I have no trouble at all driving during winter months. I have FWD and I've never encountered an accident.Some winter motorists drive too quickly and recklessly in their four-wheel-drive vehicles, thinking the quadruple momentum makes them invulnerable to frozen conditions. While some manufacturer ads may strengthen these views, they are patently untrue. And that selfishness on the highway can greatly boost the chance of a crash. [url= http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZokxYJNj8I] Spokane Ford Escape [/url] If this could be you, find the perfect Ford at CarDealExpert.com

Raymond K

I live in tropical Massachusetts where it is absolutely sunny every day....NOT...I therefore will NEVER buy a 2WD vehicle based on the fact that the New England area does get its unfair share of snow each year. I watch the unfortunate folk struggling to ride over a speed bump after 12 inches of snow fall and I gloatingly offer them tow. If you live somewhere that only gets a little rain then 2wd is fine but outside that AWD or 4WD is mandatory for me.

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