Young Buyers Turn Their Backs On Japan, Look To Detroit & South Korea

March 21, 2013

The data is clear: folks under 35 aren't as interested in owning a car as their parents and grandparents were. But that doesn't mean they've given up on cars entirely -- and when they do need a set of wheels, they're spending less time loitering on the lots of Toyota, Honda, and other Japanese brands.

That's big news, and it comes to us via studies at both Edmunds and R.L. Polk.

As recently as 2008, folks between the ages of 24 and 34 heavily favored Japanese auto brands. Of all the cars young shoppers bought that year, a stunning 50.6% came from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, and other Japanese manufacturers.

That same year, just 35.4% of young buyers purchased vehicles from Chrysler, Ford, or General Motors.

But oh, what a difference four years can make: in 2012, Japanese automakers lost huge market share among 25-to-34-year-olds, slipping nearly eight points to 42.9%.

Where did those young shoppers go for their vehicles? Some went to the Big Three: Detroit's auto share among that demographic edged upward to 36.8%. That's in part due to snazzy rides that fit Millennials' budgets, like the Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500, and Ford Fiesta.

But when it comes to market share, the biggest winner may be South Korean automakers -- specifically, Hyundai and Kia. In 2008, the two brands accounted for just 5% of sales to young auto shoppers. In 2012, that figure had doubled to around 10%.

According to's Jessica Caldwell, that's not only because of youth-oriented rides like the Hyundai Veloster and Kia Soul, it's also because the twin brands have loosened credit restrictions for younger buyers, who might not have the long work history needed to secure loans elsewhere.

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