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Byline: Mark Phelan
After spending more than 20 years and untold advertising dollars convincing buyers that front-wheel-drive cars are the safest, most practical way to drive, several major automakers are about to change course.
General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., and DamilerChrysler AG have re-evaluated which wheels should power many of their cars, and the results are about to show up on roads and in driveways near you.
To help understand how automakers use wheels to control how a vehicle is driven, think of front-wheel drive as a horse pulling a load _ dependable but not exciting. Rear-wheel drive, like a cheetah, is all about speed. A mountain goat represents the surefootedness and control of all-wheel drive.
The traditional American brands threw their full marketing weight behind front-wheel drive after the fuel crises of the 1970s. Suddenly forced to build smaller, more fuel-efficient cars, Detroit's automakers turned to FWD, which helps maximize interior room because the engine sits crosswise, allowing a shorter hood and a layout …