The Cars.co.za Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank – celebrated its 5-year landmark when the programme’s 13 category winners and the recipient of the Brand of the Year title were announced during a gala event held at the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit on 6 February 2020.
#CarsAwards was conceived to be South Africa’s definitive automotive awards programme; the list of vehicles it recognises is meant to guide car buyers to make the best-informed purchasing decisions... Cars are judged directly against their peers in specific categories, each of which has distinct requirements. What’s more, 50% of the final scores is based on brand-specific after-sales data that incorporate customer feedback from thousands of South African vehicle owners.
Since its debut in 2015/16, the #CarsAwards has grown into the largest and most influential awards event on the South African motoring calendar and, since 2017, the programme has been loyally supported by WesBank – the largest provider of vehicle finance in South Africa.
“As South Africa’s largest vehicle and asset finance house, we want to align our brand with impactful industry initiatives, especially those that add value to consumers. Walking this journey alongside consumers continues to make these industry-recognised awards very effective, as their contribution plays a vital role in the final decision. We congratulate all the winners for this year’s awards and look forward to seeing what the upcoming year brings,” says Lebogang Gaoaketse, WesBank’s Head of Marketing and Communication.
In the four previous iterations of the #CarsAwards, Suzuki and Toyota won the Brand of the Year title twice. However, the 2019/20 recipient of the most coveted #CarsAwards trophy – which is determined entirely by market and customer data – is Volkswagen.
And, by garnering six more trophies on the night (BMW and Toyota won two each), Volkswagen remains the most prolific category winner (16) in #CarsAwards history.
Representatives of the Volkswagen Amarok, Arteon and Polo, Toyota Fortuner and Suzuki Swift ranges successfully defended their category victories from the 2018/19 #CarsAwards, although in the case of the Amarok and Swift, with different derivatives.
The Volkswagen Amarok and Toyota Fortuner have now won their respective categories – Leisure Double-Cab and Adventure SUV – for three consecutive years. Suzuki won the Budget Car category (with a Swift derivative) for an incredible fourth year in a row.
Three of the 2019/20 category winners (BMW X3, Mazda CX-5 and the Volkswagen Golf GTI) rebounded from having finished as runners up in the previous year’s #CarsAwards.
In no fewer than five of the 13 categories the judges’ favourites did not win, due to the impact of data from the Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey (more details to follow).
The narrowest victory margin (0.1%) was in the Budget Car and Leisure Double-Cab categories; the largest (3.2%) was in Compact Hatch. The Budget Car category had the smallest gap between first and third place (1.4%); Performance Car the biggest (12.6%).
Seventeen brands were represented in the list of finalists. Volkswagen led the nominations with 7 derivatives, followed by BMW, Ford and Toyota (4 apiece), Mazda and Suzuki (3 apiece). The Chinese SUV brand, Haval, made its first appearance in the final stage of the #CarsAwards, while Jaguar and Land Rover returned to the list after failing to make the last round in 2018/19.
Category winners: 2019/20 #CarsAwards – powered by WesBank
Adventure SUV: Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 Auto
Budget Car: Suzuki Swift 1.2 GLX
Business Class: Volkswagen Arteon 2.0TSI 4Motion R-Line
Compact Family Car: Volkswagen T-Cross 1.0 TSI Highline R-Line
Compact Hatch: Volkswagen Polo 1.0TSI Comfortline Auto
Crossover: Audi Q3 35 TFSI S Line
Executive SUV: BMW X3 xDrive20d M Sport
Family Car: Mazda CX-5 2.0 Dynamic Auto
Fun Hatch: Volkswagen Polo GTI
Leisure Double-Cab: Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI Highline 4Motion
Performance Car: Toyota GR Supra 3.0T
Premium Hatch: Volkswagen Golf GTI
Premium SUV: BMW X5 xDrive30d M-Sport
Impact of the Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey
Fifty per cent of the final scores of the #CarsAwards category finalists was determined by the rankings the vehicles’ respective brands achieved in the Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey – in partnership with data specialists Lightstone Consumer. The data was based on owners’ experiences of their vehicles (less than five years old and serviced through franchised outlets) and the survey made its presence felt: it determined the results in five categories.
The Toyota Fortuner (Adventure SUV), Volkswagen Amarok, Arteon and T-Cross (Leisure Double-Cab, Business Class and Compact Family Car) and BMW X3 (Executive SUV) did not score the highest marks from the panel of judges following evaluation, yet emerged victorious because consumers rated their brands’ experiences higher than those of their competitors.
"The public interest and industry support for #CarsAwards shows that there is a need for an Awards programme that takes a more practical and usable approach to deciding the winners,” Oosthuizen says. “Our Awards programme is meant to be used as a buying guide that reaches the entire population, not only those who follow motoring publications."
“With 50% of a vehicle’s final score determined by a brand’s performance in the survey, a car really only stands a very good chance of winning if it is a good product in the eyes of the judges and if the brand delivers solid after-sales service,” he adds.
In four categories (Compact Hatch, Performance Car, Premium Hatch and Premium SUV), the winning derivatives received both the highest consumer category- and judges’ scores. In three categories (Budget Car, Family Car and Fun Car), the winners received the highest judges’ scores, but not the highest consumer category scores. In the Crossover category, the winner received neither the highest consumer category - nor the judges’ scores, but won on aggregate.
Multifaceted judging process
The #CarsAwards can be differentiated from other automotive award programmes in a number of ways: the winners aren’t chosen exclusively by motoring journalists who report on (and review) the latest new vehicles in the market. What’s more, the finalists were selected from the entire new passenger-vehicle market (all derivatives listed on the Cars.co.za new-vehicles price list on 1 September 2019, as opposed to only models launched during the past 12 months).
Although Cars.co.za’s extended editorial team chose the finalists, the combined judging panel (including 14 respected guest judges from various backgrounds and fields of expertise) only compiled the finalists’ individual scores once they had evaluated the cars back-to-back during an intensive two-day test at the Gerotek testing facility on 31 October and 1 November 2019. The judging process was supervised and the final results audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The combined judging panel (in alphabetical order):
Aluta Maqoko (The Kolloquium), Ashley Oldfield (Cars.co.za), Brenwin Naidu (Sowetan & Sunday Times), Ciro de Siena (Cars.co.za), Claire Mawisa (Carte Blanche), Dasen Thathiah (eNCA), David Taylor (Cars.co.za), Ernest Page (SA Car Fan), Gero Lilleike (Cars.co.za), Jacob Moshokoa (947/EWN), Juliet McGuire (Freelance), Khulekani Dumisa (Khulekani on Wheels), Khutso Theledi (YFM), Kojo Baffoe (freelance), Lerato Matebese (Driven), Mike Fourie (Cars.co.za), Nafisa Akabor (Tech Journalist), Phuti Mpyane (Business Day), Thami Masemola (In4Ride), Wendy Knowler (Consumer Specialist) and Wezile Bonani (Bay FM).
Brand of the Year
As opposed to the 13 category winners, which are decided by a combination of judges’ scores and consumer data, the recipient of the #CarsAwards Brand of the Year title is determined entirely by market data and the findings of the survey (brands’ respective sales and after-sales service ratings are particularly impactful). With a pair of Brand of the Year titles apiece, either Toyota or Suzuki was expected to break the deadlock in the fifth iteration of #CarsAwards…
However, Volkswagen – the only brand to have won at least one #CarsAwards category every year since the programme began in 2015/16 – walked away with the most prestigious accolade. Having won six of the 13 #CarsAwards categories in 2019/20, Volkswagen is comfortably the most prolific category winner (with 16 trophies) in the history of the #CarsAwards programme.
Now it has the big trophy! The Wolfsburg-based brand is a powerhouse in the South African new vehicle market, but despite its extensive dealer network, its level of client service is clearly highly regarded.
The Cars.co.za Ownership Satisfaction Survey data showed that Volkswagen defeated Isuzu by a narrow margin, while Suzuki scored the final podium position. Delving deeper into the data, it is interesting to note significant improvement from, in particular, three brands when it comes to after-sales service – Renault, Ford and Isuzu all improved by more than 15% compared to last year.
“We think the Brand of the Year trophy is the ultimate accolade in the local automotive industry,” says Oosthuizen. “It represents validation from the people who matter most – actual car owners.”
Bonang Matheba, who was recently recognised as “African Influencer of the Year” by the E! People’s Choice Awards in the United States, was the master of ceremonies. She was joined by guest presenters, Lalla Hirayama, Maps Maponyane, Ms Cosmo and Nico Panagio. The event was preceded by a business presentation by WesBank and attended by 350 guests, including industry leaders, representatives of the finance sector, media agencies and celebrities.
As has become tradition, the gala event was digitally broadcast on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and, significantly, streamed live on Cars.co.za’s top-ranked YouTube channel, which now has in excess of 190 000 subscribers. The multi-platform broadcast allowed consumers, who are at the core of Cars.co.za’s awards programme, to actively participate in the event.
Visit www.carsawards.co.za for more information about #CarsAwards, including the category criteria and to view images of the award recipients taken at the event.