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Tired of being unable to see through the 4WD ahead of them in traffic, buyers have decided that if you cannot beat them, you might as well join them.
Figures released yesterday by motor industry statistician VFACTS show that 4WD sales increased 23.8 percent in the first seven months of this year, compared with the corresponding period last year.
Contrary to public perception, our appetite for large 4WDs is still strong. Sales of heavyweights such as the ever-popular Toyota LandCruiser and Nissan Patrol are up 12.5 percent while sales of mid-size models such as the Mitsubishi Pajero and Toyota Prado are up 17.6 percent.
But the biggest boom is in compact "soft-roaders" such as the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester (pictured) and Toyota RAV4, where sales have grown 39.7 percent thanks to a rush of new models.
Sales of 4WDs have almost tripled since 1994. One in five new cars sold this year will be a 4WD of some description.
Given the vehicles' popularity, the Federal Government is now unlikely to increase the tariff on 4WDs to bring them in line with other imports and, therefore, diminish their affordability.
In addition to the vehicles' price advantage, the marketing gurus explain the 4WD phenomenon thus: the faster our cities grow, the more we want to escape them.
"People drive 4WDs in the city but, in effect, they are saying to the world, 'I can leave this mess if I want to'," said social analyst David Chalke.
The 4WD phenomenon is so strong even the German sports car specialist Porsche is building a 4WD.
Two Porsche Cayennes are coming to Australia for the Sydney Motor Show in October but cars for sale will not arrive until early next year. They will be priced from $100,000.