The redesigned 2014 Kia Sorento's long list of changes adds...

The redesigned 2014 Kia Sorento's long list of changes adds refinement and desirable features, but the company's claims of a roomier cabin fall short, according to a review. Credit: / Kia

U.S. automakers and South Korean affiliates Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. are boosting their share of sales to younger U.S. buyers at the expense of Japanese brands, according to a pair of market researchers.

General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC increased their share of retail registrations to 18- to 24-year- olds by 1.9 percentage points and to 25- to 34-year-olds by 1.5 points since 2008, according to R.L. Polk & Co. and South Korean brands gained 6.8 points and 5.1 points worth of share among those buyers last year.

After losing a generation of buyers to Japanese automakers led by Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., GM, Ford and Chrysler are gaining ground in the smaller car segments that attract young American consumers. The Detroit automakers’ share of the U.S. small and mid-sized car market will grow to 33 percent next year, from 26 percent in 2009, according to researcher LMC Automotive.

“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,” Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with Santa Monica, California-based Edmunds, said in a statement.

Japanese automakers led the industry by registering 42.6 percent of retail sales to 18- to 24-year-olds and 42.9 percent to 25- to 34-year-olds last year, according to data compiled by Polk. The brands lost 9.8 percentage points and 7.7 points of share in those categories since 2008, the data show.

European automakers increased their share of retail sales to 18- and 24-year-olds by 1.1 percentage points to 7.1 percent and 25- to 34-year olds by 1 point to 9.8 percent since 2008, according to the data.

U.S. auto sales may rise to 15.1 million this year from 14.5 million last year, the average estimate of 18 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg in January. In a separate survey, analysts’ average estimates were for little change to market share for GMFord, Toyota and Chrysler this year, with growth led by Volkswagen AG, Honda and Nissan Motor Co.

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