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Younger car buyers shifting to South Korean, American brands

March 22, 2013|By Jerry Hirsch
  • Thanks to vehicles like this Kia Forte, South Korean car brands Kia and Hyundai are gaining a bigger share of young car buyers.
Thanks to vehicles like this Kia Forte, South Korean car brands Kia and Hyundai… (Bruce Benedict / MCT )

Detroit's automakers are doing better selling to young buyers, but South Korean car companies are making the biggest inroads in that segment, primarily at the expense of the Japanese.

That’s the finding of a study of auto registrations by auto research firms R.L. Polk & Co. and Edmunds.com.

The U.S. automakers are doing better in the age 25-to-34 segment by offering “small, fuel-efficient and affordable cars that really appeal to a young set of buyers,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Edmunds.com.

But she noted that domestic automakers are “chiseling away at the Japanese grip” while Hyundai and Kia, the South Korean brands, “are taking big hacks.”

They are doing this by making cars attractive to young people and doing a good job of providing credit to youthful buyers who have not built up a solid credit history.

Polk said American brands had a 37% share of vehicles bought by Americans ages 25 to 34 last year. That’s up from a little over 35% in 2008. The share of purchases by that age group for the Korean brands doubled to 10% during the same time period. Meanwhile, the share of Japanese brands dropped from nearly 51% to 43%.

Most of the lost share by the Japanese went to the Korean brands, according to Edmunds.com analysis.

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