Car owners have their say in the annual CarsAwards


File: Suzuki narrowly defeated Mercedes-Benz by 1 per cent, with Mazda scoring the final podium position.

JOHANNESBURG - There are a number of automotive awards up for grabs every year, but few of them recognise the voices of the people who arguably know the vehicles best, car owners.

The 2017/18 Consumer Awards – powered by WesBank -- concluded with the announcement of the winners in 13 categories and of the prestigious Brand of the Year prize at a red-carpet event hosted at The Galleria in Sandton, Johannesburg recently.

Conceived as South Africa’s definitive automotive awards programme, CarsAwards has steadily grown in stature, reach and influence since the inaugural event in 2016. Highlights of this third iteration of the awards were:

  • Suzuki defended its 2016/17 CarsAwards Brand of the Year title and repeated its victories in a pair of categories: Budget Car and Compact Family Car.
  • Mazda tasted success for the first time in CarsAwards history by winning two categories: Compact Hatch and Family Car.

To underline that the winners in each of the categories were based equally on the judges’ scores and brands’ ratings in the Ownership Satisfaction Survey, all the finalists’ totals were revealed during the awards ceremony.

In no fewer than five of the 13 categories the judges’ favourite did not win, due to the impact of the Ownership Satisfaction Survey (more details to follow).

A total of 20 car brands were represented in the 39 finalists.

Category winners of the 2017/18 Consumer Awards

  • Budget Car: Suzuki Ignis 1.2 GL
  • Compact Hatch: Mazda2 1.5 Individual
  • Premium Hatch: Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI Comfortline R-Line DSG
  • Compact Family Car: Suzuki Vitara 1.6 GLX Auto
  • Family Car: Mazda CX-5 2.5 Individual
  • Business Class: BMW 420d Gran Coupe Sport Line Sports Auto
  • Executive Sedan: Mercedes-Benz E350d Avantgarde
  • Leisure Double-Cab Bakkie: Volkswagen Amarok 3.0 V6 TDI 4Motion Highline Plus
  • Adventure SUV: Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 Auto
  • Executive SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLC250d 4Matic AMG Line
  • Premium SUV: Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine R-Design
  • Fun Car: Mini John Cooper Works Sports Auto
  • Performance Car: BMW M2 M-DCT

Impact of the Ownership Satisfaction Survey

The importance of after-sales service excellence was highlighted by the impact of the Ownership Satisfaction Survey on the final scores.

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“With 50 percent of a vehicle’s final score determined by a brand’s performance in the Consumer Satisfaction Survey, a car only really 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,” says Hannes Oosthuizen,’s consumer experience manager.

“We think this is a crucial distinguishing feature of the CarsAwards, because buying a car is ultimately about much more than just the product. Consumers buy into a brand and essentially enter into a relationship with that brand,” he explains.

Multifaceted judging process

There are several reasons the CarsAwards is of greater significance than most other automotive awards programmes. For one, the winners aren’t chosen exclusively by motoring journalists, who report on (and review) the latest new vehicles in the market.

Although the seven members of’s editorial team chose the finalists, the combined judging panel (including 11 respected guest judges from various backgrounds and fields of expertise) compiled the finalists’ individual scores only once they’d evaluated the cars back-to-back during a thorough two-day test at the Gerotek facility at the end of 2017.

All derivatives listed on the new vehicles price list on September 1 2017 were eligible for selection and the public had just as much say in the outcome of 2017/18 CarsAwards as the 18 judges did.

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Fifty percent of the final standings was based on rankings that the respective vehicle brands achieved in the Ownership Satisfaction Survey, conducted in partnership with data specialists Lightstone Consumer.

The data incorporated feedback from thousands of vehicle owners, based on their experiences of their vehicles (less than five years old and serviced through franchised outlets).  

In fact, the most prestigious title awarded by CarsAwards – Brand of the Year – was based solely on the findings of the Ownership Satisfaction Survey.

Brand of the Year

Following its surprise win last year, Suzuki’s good reputation received another boost from this year’s CarsAwards.

The Japanese brand again emerged victorious in the Brand of the Year category, which is determined entirely by market and customer data, the latter from the aforementioned survey (sales and after-sales service in particular).

Suzuki narrowly defeated Mercedes-Benz by 1 percent, with Mazda scoring the third podium position.

1.     Suzuki 
2.     Mercedes-Benz
3.     Mazda 
4.     Volkswagen
5.     BMW/Mini
6.     Kia
7.     Audi
8.     Toyota/Lexus
9.     Nissan
10.  Mahindra

“We think the Brand of the Year trophy is the ultimate accolade in the South African automotive industry,” says Oosthuizen.

“It represents validation from the people that matter most – actual car owners. Suzuki has managed to achieve impressive market share growth in the past 12 months and has maintained excellent service levels.”