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By Jim Burt

The all-wheel drive offerings are going to be plentiful in a few years, say auto executives at the show. Toyota, Ford and Mazda are among those planning to add all-wheel-drive options on their sedans, as well as crossovers, by mid-decade. Toyota's U.S. chief Jim Press says the automaker is planning on AWD versions of its Camry as well as Lexus models and possibly others. "It's to offer people who are aging out of the need or want of SUVs the utility they have been used to." Ford's sales and marketing chief Jim O'Connor says the Ford Five Hundred and Mercury Montego sedans will both offer all-wheel-drive versions in addition to the Ford Freestyle crossover based on the same platform. The Five Hundred and Montego, both front-drive, follow the strategy employed by Jaguar with its front-drive X-Type, which was made all-wheel-drive for the U.S. to enhance its performance appeal among Jag enthusiasts and customers. The Five Hundred will be competing against the Chrysler replacements for the Dodge Intrepid and Chrysler Concorde, which are both being made as rear-drive sedans with all-wheel-drive options. O'Connor says he suspects a higher percentage of Mercury Montegos will be sold with AWD than Ford Five Hundreds because Ford buyers are "inherently more price-conscious." Mazda executives, too, said they are looking to offer all-wheel-drive on the Mazda6 sedan.



Mazda executives said they wanted to introduce the Mazdaspeed version of the Mazda Miata this week in Chicago, but that it wasn't ready. The Mazdaspeed Miata, expected to be at the New York Auto Show, will be supercharged and have Mazdaspeed body and trim treatments to differentiate it from the standard Miata. Mazda executives also said that their biggest problems with the new Mazda6 is product mix. Nearly 40 percent of orders are for V-6 cars, and that's compared with less than 20 percent for Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Also, orders for the standard transmission version have far outstripped what Mazda planned for, with early orders running in excess of 30 percent.

Gabriel,
2001 CL Type S
2001 Lexus RX300 Silversport
 
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