Disconnecting two of the wheels from the 4x4 drivetrain can significantly improve fuel economy. Tom Murphy reports.

Consumers in certain regions love vehicles with 4- and all-wheel drive, and environmental regulators around the world are hounding automakers for more fuel-efficient vehicles. It was only a matter of time before the industry found a cost-effective way to satisfy both demands.

The simple, elegant solution: disconnecting power to two wheels when 4WD isn’t necessary, which is nearly all the time.

Axle suppliers are eager to help automakers down this path but the No.1 player is Canada’s Magna International, which claims 30% market share for 4- and all-wheel-drive systems.

Customers include BMW, which markets Magna’s AWD components under the name XDrive, and Audi, whose well-known quattro AWD system gets a big assist from Magna. This article first appeared in WardsAuto.

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