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All-wheel drive gaining traction among consumers

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. — Winter’s wrath fell hard on car dealer David Kelleher last month, forcing him to close his Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep store near Philadelphia for five days due to heavy snow and ice. There was an upside, though: booming sales of all-wheel drive models.

‘‘In past winters, customers had to take a day off work if they had a car with rear-wheel drive because it didn’t get them out of their driveway,’’ said Kelleher, whose store is in Glen Mills, Pa. ‘‘When we got hit with this snow, people said, ‘Screw this, I’m finally going to take this plunge.’ ”

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Even as auto sales have been slowed this winter by record cold and snow, brands known for their AWD offerings have fared well. In February, when industrywide sales were little changed, Subaru sales climbed 24 percent and Jeep deliveries jumped 47 percent. Last year, almost one in four autos sold in America were equipped with all-wheel drive, according to IHS Automotive.

‘‘There are just so many more choices now,’’ said Bill Fox, who sells Subaru, Honda, Toyota, Chrysler, and Chevrolet models at his Auburn, N.Y., dealership. ‘‘There has been a groundswell of interest from young, married people who are taking a look at safety features, and it has to have all-wheel drive. It just wasn’t as important before.’’

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