IHS automotive consultant, Paul Lacey, told the Detroit Free Press that the spread of all-wheel drive was related to the popularity of crossovers and consumers’ perception that AWD is safer and sportier.
Currently around 80 percent of all Audi vehicles sold in the US feature the brand’s quattro all-wheel drive system. Cadillac expects AWD to exceed 50 percent of its sales in the near future, and Lincoln already offers every vehicle in its range with the option of AWD.
Subaru set the trend years ago when it launched its vehicles exclusively with its symmetrical all-wheel drive system. Other high-volume mainstream brands are beginning to catch on in the US, with all-wheel drive variants of the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 300 models growing in popularity.
The trend is despite the continued push from manufacturers to increase the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. Traditional all-wheel drive systems are heavier than standard front- or rear-wheel drive set-ups. They are also less efficient, as the power from the engine has to be distributed to four wheels rather than two.
New hybrid all-wheel drive systems could change this however, and potentially add further to the popularity of AWD. Set-ups like Peugeot’s HYbrid4, where a diesel engine powers the front axle and an electric motor drives the rear axle, can lead to combined cycle fuel consumption figures of less than 4.0 litres/100km.
The Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4 will become the first vehicle to offer this technology in Australia when it goes on sale in the first quarter of 2012.
Of the top 10 vehicles sold in Australia in March, only three were available with all-wheel drive – the Toyota HiLux, Mitsubishi Triton and the Mitsubishi Lancer.