Young drivers prefer Asian brands, a study released Wednesday by consumer web site TrueCar.com says.

More specifically, young car buyers opted for Scions, Mitsubishis and Mazdas in droves. Those three brands, the top three in the study, combined took an astounding 52.2% of the Generation Y market. The top ten brands preferred by young buyers included as well Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota and Subaru. Volkswagen was the only non-Asian brand to crack the top ten and number 5, with 9.6% of the 18-27 year old market.

That's bad news for American and European automakers, who need younger buyers to keep their brands popular. The study looked at more than 4 million American car buyers in Generation Y, the name given to the part of the population in the 18-27 age range.

"Generation Y buyers are very important to automakers because they help set trends from popularizing social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter or technologies such as the iPhone and iPod," said Jesse Toprak, Vice President of Trends and Analysis at TrueCar.com in a press release. "It's also important for an automaker to get a young buyer into their vehicle from the beginning in hopes of continued loyalty to the brand."

Jeep was the most popular American brand in the study, with 5.8% of the market. Ford and Chevrolet also cracked the top 20, with 5.1% and 4.2%, respectively. Those numbers are sure to be especially disappointing to Ford, which has been aggressively marketing its smaller cars like the Focus and Fiesta via social media and other outlets dominated by Generation Y in an effort to get them behind the wheel of Blue Oval vehicles.

It's All About Individuality

Models that allow for high levels of customization were among the most popular for Generation Y. Case in point were the Scion tC, Mitsubishi Lancer and Honda Civic Si models.

"Generation Y buyers want vehicles that look distinct and can be tailored to their individual tastes" said Kristen Andersson, an Automotive Analyst at TrueCar.com. "Buyers from this generation are also looking for vehicles that have the technology features they are accustomed to built into the vehicle at an affordable price."

Indeed, all of the top 10 most popular models for young buyers had a base MSRP under $23,000 and involved either a high propensity for customization or unique exterior styling. Models that were particularly popular among younger buyers were the Toyota Yaris Sedan, Scion xD and Volkswagen GLI. The Ford Focus Coupe was the most popular American model in the study.

Most Popular Make/Model Most Popular Brands
Scion tC - 37.4% Scion - 21.2%
Mitsubishi Lancer - 32.1% Mitsubishi - 20.3%
Honda Civic Si - 23.4% Mazda - 10.7%
Toyota Yaris - 21.3% Nissan - 9.8%
Ford Focus Coupe - 19.3% Volkswagen - 9.6%
Scion xD - 19.1% Kia - 9.1%
Volkswagen GLI - 19.0% Hyundai - 8.6%
Subaru Impreza - 18.3% Honda - 8.0%
Kia Forte - 17.9% Toyota - 7.6%
Toyota Corolla - 17.8% Subaru - 7.3%