By Andrew Ganz
Thursday, Mar 21st, 2013 @ 8:29 am
 
Though the youth market is generally more apathetic toward cars today than ever before, those in the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 year old brackets are buying American and especially Korean cars at a higher rate now than they were just a few years ago.

According to Edmunds and R.L. Polk research compiled by Bloomberg, South Korea's Hyundai and Kia have upped their market share among the youngest buyers by 6.8 points. Buyers in the 25 to 34 year old bracket are up 5.1 percentage points over the last five years.

The Detroit 3 - Chrysler, Ford and General Motors - have also grown after years of decline. Registrations to 18 to 24 year olds are up 1.9 percent and they're up 1.5 percent for 25 to 34 year olds.

That growth comes at the expense of Japanese-branded vehicles, which still dominate the under 35 market but have lost considerable share over the last five years.

Together, Japanese automakers lost 9.8 and 7.7 percentage points for the youngest and next youngest groups, respectively. Still, Japanese brands continue to account for about 43 percent of all sales to buyers under 35.

By the numbers - percentage point gain or loss since 2008, 18-24 year olds

  • Domestic automakers - up 1.9 points
  • European automakers - up 1.1 points
  • Korean automakers - up 6.8 points
  • Japanese automakers - down 9.8 points

By the numbers - percentage point gain or loss since 2008, 25-34 year olds

  • Domestic automakers - up 1.5 points
  • European automakers - up 1 point
  • Korean automakers - up 5.1 points
  • Japanese automakers - down 7.7 points

Why the trend away from Japanese-branded cars? The market in general has shifted more toward Korean brands in particular, but the Detroit 3 are notable for the emphasis they've put on developing vehicles that appeal to younger buyers, analyst Jessica Caldwell from Edmunds told Bloomberg.

"U.S. automakers have burst onto the scene in recent years with small, fuel-efficient and affordable cars that really appeal to a young set of buyers," she said.

After putting little emphasis on smaller cars, Detroit automakers - especially Ford and GM - have introduced several new compact and subcompact models designed to court younger buyers. However, automakers will need to keep up their momentum if they want to retain those buyers since studies have shown younger buyers are far less brand-loyal than their parents and grandparents.