I know this is going to come as a huge shock to the system but I have been seriously wondering if rear wheel drive is even considered by the “masses” of car buyers. Is it an automatic disqualifier if a car is solely propelled from the rubber out back?
This past weekend while at Oktoberfest here in Munich, a German in his late 20s told me over a few liters of beer that rear wheel drive is bad in the snow and he would never drive or buy one because of it. This guy was not an enthusiast, more on par with cars being appliances that get you from point A to B although his dad works support for the DTM. His commentary though, made me consider this idea that people have been brain washed into all wheel drive or nothing.
Formerly I blamed this AWD or bust mentality on Subaru in the US, but with Subbie sales and marketing nearly non-existent in Deutschland it has become more apparent that this Audi’s fault. Years of Quattro advertising and all the new marketing from BMW’s xDrive on the German ski slopes is pushing people towards all wheel drive. I am not going to argue the points for rear wheel drive here, we all know it is more performance oriented and can be better in snow than front wheel in many applications and all wheel drive has its issues as well but I want to explore the ramifications of this gentleman’s comment.
A German, that has gone through the entire training program here and can undoubtedly drive better than the vast majority of Americans thinks he needs all wheel drive to drive in winter. Like most Germans he considers the financial investment, environmental impact and wear and tear into his thought process and still thinks that the plusses far exceed the consequences,(not trying to stereotype but this is what we talked about!) To me this is sad. It is also the reason BMW now offers almost every model with xDrive.
Simply put; the general consumer thinks it is needed it. If not every general consumer I would bet the majority now share this train of thought. In a country like the US this more than likely only comes into play in the part of the country with snow as no one needs all wheel drive driving in South Beach but it sure does play a significant role in what vehicles people would consider buying.
With all that said, this almost proves BMW M’s rationale for xDrive variants and could also be part of the reason the all new F30 3 Series has not sold well stateside. It’s hard to sell something with rear wheel drive in the major sales area of the country to the masses, especially if they think that they “need” all wheel drive to survive. Maybe BMW made a mistake in not offering xDrive from the start of production in the new 3 Series? In the next month we’ll see if this was the real reason for the poor sales or maybe it is because of the packagaing and price (that’s a different story all together).