While more consumers are moving away from sport utility vehicles and opting for cars and crossovers, they aren''t willing to part with the confidence of all-wheel drive (AWD).

Ford has expanded its AWD lineup, introducing AWD versions of the Ford Fusion, the Mercury Milan and the Lincoln MKZ midsize sedans this month. All-wheel-drive versions of the 2007 Ford Edge and 2007 Lincoln MKX crossovers will hit dealer showrooms in November, bringing the total number of Ford
vehicles to offer conventional four-wheel drive or AWD to an industry-leading 36.

In a recent survey of current sport utility owners, 73 percent want all-wheel drive or four-wheel drive on their next vehicle. In the luxury market, 50 percent of owners want all-wheel drive on their cars or trucks. Ford is answering the call by expanding its lineup of AWD vehicles.

"Broadening the availability of all-wheel drive comes as a result of listening to our customers," says Brett Wheatley, Medium and Large Car product marketing manager for Ford Motor Company.

"Many drivers who are attracted to SUVs but who are concerned about fuel prices are considering alternative vehicles. Offering a broad range of AWD sedans and crossovers gives these buyers more of what they want."

Sport utilities and pickup trucks have long taken advantage of four-wheel drive. In 2005, Ford began extending those advantages from sport utilities such as the Escape and the Explorer to sedans and crossovers, with the introduction of the AWD Ford Five Hundred and Freestyle and Mercury Montego.

A recent report from J.D. Power and Associates forecasts that four-wheel-drive vehicles will make up 37 percent of all vehicles produced by 2008. That growth is expected to be fueled by all-wheel-drive systems based on front-wheel-drive vehicles, such as the Five Hundred sedan and the Freestyle crossover, which are expected to more than double to 32 percent by 2008 from the current 13 percent.

Ford is looking for AWD sales to exceed 500,000 units annually by 2007, with 400,000 of those being cars and crossovers. Those numbers should be easy to reach, as the company is making the technology more affordable. All-wheel-drive models of the Ford Five Hundred and the Mercury Montego sell for up to $5,400 less than nearest competitors, while the Ford Freestyle is priced more than $3,100 below the nearest crossover competitor.

The AWD Fusion and Milan are the only vehicles in their segment to offer an AWD option. The price for the Fusion AWD SE with the 3.0-liter V-6 starts at just under $23,000.

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