Car buyers between the ages of 18 and 34 still buy more Japanese cars like Hondas and Toyota than any other geographical region, but the margins are smaller and smaller every year. A new study found that teens and twentysomethings are shifting their buying habits to automakers from the U.S. and South Korea.
The study, which was performed by R.L. Polk and Company and reported by USA Today, found that 42.6 percent of new cars registered by 18 to 24-year-old buyers last year were from a Japanese brand (Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Subaru, and Mitsubishi). That's 9.8 points lower than four years prior, when Japanese brands snatched up 52.3 percent of the youth market.
The Polk study shows that the 9.8 percent of market share lost by the Japanese brands was distributed between European, American, and South Korean brands, but it wasn't necessarily even. American brands climbed 1.9 points (35.7 percent of registrations in 2008 to 37.6 percent in 2012), and European brands inched up 1.1 points (6.0 percent of registrations in 2008 to 7.1 percent in 2012).
But the biggest gains were made by South Korean brands -- namely, Hyundai and Kia. 5.8 percent of new cars registered by 18-24-year-olds in 2008 were Korean; in 2012, that number had more than doubled to 12.6 percent. And the story is the same with 25-to-34-year-old buyers: Korean manufacturers scored 4.9 percent of the market in 2008 and jumped to 10.1 percent in 2012 -- again, more than doubling its showing.
It's a reasonable assumption that these gains were made thanks to a dogged approach to quality in the compact and mid-size segments by Hyundai and Kia. Cars like Hyundai's Accent and Elantra (redesigned in 2011 and 2010, respectively) have found more critical acclaim (and marketshare) than ever. Cars like Kia's Rio, Soul, and Forte have also drawn first-time customers into the fray, thanks to a mixture of distinctive styling and hip advertising.
Source: R.L. Polk via USA Today