Edmunds has taken a closer look at the buying habits of young adults. As it turns out, Gen X and Gen Y buyers are increasingly eschewing Japanese brands in favor of South Korean and American automakers. Five years ago, that wasn't the case, with more than half of all young buyers flocking to brands like Nissan, Honda, Toyota, Subaru and Mazda. But the U.S. has made up quite a bit of ground in recent years by producing inexpensive and fuel efficient small cars that appeal to a younger audience. Likewise, Hyundai and Kia have sharpened their small car games as well, and are now making more credit available to younger customers.

Those efforts have begun to pay dividends. While Japanese brands have seen their share of 18-24 year-old buyers slide by 9.8 percent between 2008 and 2012, domestic automakers have enjoyed a 1.9 percent increase. South Korean brands, meanwhile, have enjoyed the largest jump, with a 6.8 percent increase over the same time period. Check out the full press release below for more information.
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Young Car Buyers Shift Preferences from Japanese to U.S. and Korean Brands, Reports Edmunds.com

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - March 20, 2013 - American auto brands are gaining strength with younger buyers in the U.S., while their Japanese rivals have taken a big step back, reports Edmunds.com, the premier resource for car shopping and automotive information. According to an analysis of new car retail registrations from R. L. Polk & Co., American brands accounted for 36.8 percent of cars bought by Americans age 25 to 34 in 2012, up from a share of 35.4 percent in 2008. Meanwhile the share of Japanese brands for the same age group plummeted from 50.6 percent to 42.9 percent during that period

But even with the incremental success of American brands, Edmunds.com found that the exodus from Japanese cars by young buyers is turning mostly toward South Korean brands. About 10 percent of new cars purchased by 25-to-34 year olds in 2012 carried South Korean nameplates, more than doubling the rate for this age group since 2008.

"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," says Edmunds.com Sr. Analyst Jessica Caldwell. "But while Detroit might be chiseling away at the Japanese grip on Gen X and Gen Y, South Korean brands are taking big hacks. Not only are the Koreans making better cars for young people, but they've also worked to make credit available to young buyers who still don't have solid credit history."

The South Koreans' progress with young buyers reflects their overall growth in the U.S. market. Korean brands represented 9.5 percent of all new retail registrations in the U.S. in 2012, almost twice as much as their share of 5.0 percent in 2008.

European car labels are flexing their own muscles in the U.S. market as well, accounting for 9.9 percent of new car registrations in the U.S. last year, up from 8.5 percent in 2008. Like the South Koreans, European carmakers have delivered consistent growth among all age groups since 2008, with the biggest successes among older car buyers, thanks to Baby Boomers choosing European luxury cars post-retirement.

Edmunds.com offers a wealth of insights into car shopping behavior and habits through its Industry Center at http://www.edmunds.com/industry-center/.


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  • 201 Comments
      kontroll
      • 1 Year Ago
      I start respecting the American consumer again...thank God the diapered toyota buying baby boomer generation is fading away in the nursing homes...maybe toyota and honda should start manufacturing wheel chairs to hold on to this demented generation a little bit longer
        AXEL
        • 1 Year Ago
        @kontroll
        I'm 24, and own a 1989 Nissan 240SX, 1990 Mazda Miata, and 1987 Toyota MR2. I love my cars but my loyalty isn't only to Japanese vehicles. I like plenty of European vehicles, and even the Optima, but the list of American vehicles that excite me is quite small. I guess what I'm trying to say out of all of this is, your Cadillac is waiting in the parking to return you home before brunch.
          mikoprivat
          • 1 Year Ago
          @AXEL
          you mean the Cadillac ATS...moron?
          Tom
          • 1 Year Ago
          @AXEL
          Somebody is stuck in the 80s
          • 1 Year Ago
          @AXEL
          [blocked]
          GasMan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @AXEL
          Congratulations. You bought the last 3 good Japanese cars.
      Scooter
      • 1 Year Ago
      Friends don't let friends drive Korean cars.
      D1rty_D
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm 23 years old and I'd never buy a freakin Kia or Hyundai.
      11fiveoh
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm 19 and would never consider any available Korean car..
      Finklestein
      • 1 Year Ago
      Young buyers like excitement. Hyundai/Kia/Ford have been keeping in touch with the younger generation. Honda and Toyota's current profile of cars puts young people to sleep faster than a high school chemistry professor.
        Dean Hammond
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Finklestein
        totally agree...ironically the same cars the younger generation are embracing are the same ones poo pooed by Consumer Reports due to the \"techie\" content the younger generation is demanding....
          AXEL
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Dean Hammond
          You mean the stuff that helps them crash and buy another new car with daddy's money?
        JasonERF
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Finklestein
        So right.
      surferdude
      • 1 Year Ago
      Being one of the demographic this article talks about, I almost went for a KIA Optima. Then I remembered I would have tell people I drove a KIA, so I went a got a 2014 Mazda6. The Korean brands still have a lot of stigma to get over.
        ICantDrive88
        • 1 Year Ago
        @surferdude
        Good choice! The Kia still has issues on resale value too. Mazda's hold there value surprisingly well.
        barkeep
        • 1 Year Ago
        @surferdude
        Agreed. It will take me at least another generation of the Korean cars to win me over. The Optima looks great right now, but I'll wait until the next gen to see what they come up with. So far so good though.
        RoflPenguin
        • 1 Year Ago
        @surferdude
        I don't think I could buy a kia personally. Everything thing in my price range looks ugly and I liked the older version of the forte. Unfortunately I drove in one and I was too tall and my head would always touch and bump the ceiling. Sorry KIA :P
        DSC888
        • 1 Year Ago
        @surferdude
        Good for you on getting the 6. Mazda is one of the last car companies who still cares about fun and good handling cars across the line. I love my CX-9! The new 6 is beautiful and is a very sweet handling car. And Mazda is a company that I am no embarrassed to tell people about, especially given their Zoom Zoom image.
        ilmhmtu
        • 1 Year Ago
        @surferdude
        We were looking at mid-size with a manual (we are 25 & 26). Kias, Hyundais, GM and Fords either didn't come with one or we're optioned too high for our budget. We ended up getting a Honda Accord Sport and love it to death. Now if we wanted a small car, it would of probably been between a Mazda3 or Ford Focus.
        MistyGreen
        • 1 Year Ago
        @surferdude
        So jealous.
      SooooRight
      • 1 Year Ago
      No surprise this generation would like cartoon cars like KIA.
      turkeythundergod
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not surprisimg. With a pathetic economy, massive student loan debt, the rise in cost of new vars, and high gas prices, it only makes sense that the over worked and under paid young people of today would buy cheap cars. The more telling stat would be how few young pwople can affordany new car at all. As a young engineer, I have several friends in the same level of jobs as me that have $1000 a month student loan payments. Add in rent, living expenses, and the reality that we pay over 30% taxes for being single and having jobs, how is anyone expected to scrape togwther enough cash for a decent car? And we're the successful ones that found jobs! Most haven't even started careers. So the few that buy new buy cheap. American cars with massive cash on the hood, and inexoensive Korean cars. We need new leadership in Washington.
        ilmhmtu
        • 1 Year Ago
        @turkeythundergod
        Lol, you just described me! $1000/month for my engineering degree.
      John Ward
      • 1 Year Ago
      The japenese haven't exactly been making awesome cars lately. They owned the 90s. Now the Koreans are making better quality vehicles that even look better. The Americans are starting to make decent cars again too.
      • 1 Year Ago
      [blocked]
        Tom
        • 1 Year Ago
        I guess working for GM you don't get a chance to deal with many other brands. I wouldn't say European cars are fun to drive unless your talking BMW Porsche Mercedes or the exotics. And those are way more experience then GM cars and. If you think domestic quality is crap. You never worked on a European car. Except mayb your Vulva. I mean Volvo
          aatbloke1967
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Tom
          As far as a mainstream cars are concerned, the best chassis for driving dynamics usually hail from Europe. Ford of Europe, Opel, VAG, PSA and Fiat have all achieved notoriety in this regard, and are usually superior to their Japanese counterparts. And bread and butter American models are riding on chassis engineered in Europe in the first place. Vulva? Please, grow up.
          Tom
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Tom
          @ Aatbloke1967. Sure if you live in Europe and believe everything people tell you. Ok buddy. By the way I'm dating a French model. Um Bonjour
          chanonissan
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Tom
          @aatbloke1967 have you ever heard of lotus, they co develop the gtr handling with nissan, are you saying the gtr is rubbish? what about the bluebird attesa, not because ford is in europe does not mean other cars does not have european input.Nissan also have its design centre in europe they design the qashqai and the note. And their partners are european.
          carguy1701
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Tom
          I think Mind Synthetic is lying about working for GM. I have a friend on FB who interned with them last summer and he said that they have a bunch of different makes and models from pretty much everyone in their test fleets.
          thequebecerinfrance
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Tom
          @Tom You never drove real cars in Europe (not cars you can rent). Even the econoboxes are fun to drive with their zippy handling. Since I came back here I was really disappointed with the cars. I wanted a last gen Ford Fusion (came back last year) and I was very disappointed by the handling of this supposedly European car. It was so soft. You have to spend the big bucks here to get fun to drive cars.
      joe shmoe
      • 1 Year Ago
      Young people today weren't around when Hyundai axles fell off on the highway, and when GM/oldsmobile transmissions frequently failed. This stuff sticks in my mind and makes me hesitant to buy korean or american. Maybe in 10 years I'll consider.
        DK
        • 1 Year Ago
        @joe shmoe
        They do remember all the Honda transmissions failing though...
        John
        • 1 Year Ago
        @joe shmoe
        GM transmissions still fail.... my aunt bought a 2012 Equinox only to have the entire trans fail with less than 3k miles on the clock. Its been in the shop so many times since then. The only issue is it hasn't been the same problem so no lemon law protection unfortunately. Shes thinking about trading it in already but I think she'll atleast wait until the 2-3yr mark so she can atleast break even :-/
        jessesrq
        • 1 Year Ago
        @joe shmoe
        Every automaker has a few lemons in its past. I place more importance on the last 5 - 10 years than the previous 20. I do place importance on design and performance, though, and there are two consistent issues with Hyundais and Kias: 1) The engines make good numbers on paper (HP and MPG) but the performance does not back up the numbers. 2) The interiors look good in photos and pack in high-end features, but they do not feel premium in person.
      johnb
      • 1 Year Ago
      I'm convinced Japan doesn't like cars anymore. Most of their offerings are boring, bland and totally forgettable.
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