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Younger car buyers' habits changing

7:10 PM, Mar 25, 2013   |    comments
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GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WZZM) -- Detroit's Big Three seem to be gaining ground on the Japanese among younger car buyers. A new report shows more people in the 25 to 34 age bracket are going American or are looking to Korean cars.

The report is from the research groups Edmunds.com and R.L. Polk. It found Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler accounted for 37 percent of new cars bought by this demographic in 2012, up slightly from 2008.

Locally, dealers WZZM 13 talked to say younger buyers like smaller cars fitted with new technology. For Victoria Vanderboon, the decision to buy a Chevy is based on her roots.

"I think since I started working more full-time, I started to realize how much it affects people when their jobs are gone," she said.

Her age demographic, 25-34, is also realizing, and has come to demand the technology that's inside some vehicles, like the Dodge Avenger and the Dart at Zeigler Chrysler in Grandville. Their lot is actually sold out of darts right now.

"From a car standpoint, our sales are probably up at this store over the prior year, 15 to 18 percent, new car-wise over the prior year. I would say a lot of that is due to the cars," says general manager Ted Holloway. Holloway says the trend started last summer. "Our bread and butter for years has been minivans and Jeep and that's a different age bracket, now we're seeing more and more of those younger couples, people fresh out of college."

IHS Automotive director of financial services, Jim Gillette says they also want style and technology for under $20,000. Gillette says the Ford Focus is a top pick and Keller Ford sales manager Patrick Kelley backs that claim up.

But while Hyundai and Kia saw big gains among young buyers, the report shows the Japanese market fell from 50.6% percent to 42.9% from 2008 to 2012. Gillette, however, says the figures don't take into account the tsunami that wiped out production overseas.

"I can't say I've seen a significant dip in the younger buyers versus other buyers in the past few years," said Mike Udell, general manager of Toyota of Grand Rapids. His dealership markets the Scion to young buyers. "Which Toyota targeted at Generation X, Generation Y buyers, saw a 75 percent increase here," he said.

There is one thing driving in younger drivers to both dealerships. The search for fuel-efficient cars.

"Fuel prices has been the biggest single reason for sales," said Udell.

Gillette says while the American car makers are making ground with the 18-34 age group, they're still not doing as well among the key buyers-- those ages 35 to 54.

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