The 2019 Autotrader South African Car of the Year finalists.

Johannesburg - An analysis of finalists over the past 15 years in the AutoTrader SA Car of the Year competition has revealed some interesting findings: while the highly qualified jury agrees with the buying public when it comes to some brands, it differs when it comes to others.

Toyota and Honda have clocked up the most SA Car of the Year finalists over the past 15 years.

The success of Toyota in terms of number of finalists is not unexpected. After all, Toyota has been the market leader for 39 years. Thanks – in part – to the success of the Hilux, Toyota had an impressive 2018, ending with a 10-year high market share of 24.2%.

Honda’s triumphs are more surprising. While the brand had a reasonable 2018, growing sales by 4.8%, it closed 13th in overall sales ranking. The Honda Civic Type R is one of the 12 finalists in the 2019 competition, and will be competing alongside the Mercedes-Benz A-Class in the new category titled Medium Family.

Jury members however do not choose finalists based on vehicle sales. “Instead, they choose cars that are considered to be excellent in all areas,” points out George Mienie, AutoTrader CEO and sponsor of the event. Clearly, the jury believes that this applies to vehicles from the Honda stable.

The same can be said of Suzuki’s product offering. The jury has given Suzuki a double thumbs-up in the 2019 contest; it is the only brand with two finalists in the running (the Swift and the Jimny). This is the second time that Suzuki has achieved this feat; it had two finalists in 2009 (the Swift and SX4).

The success of Suzuki in this year’s contest is apt. The company had a good 2018. In fact, it grew sales by 37.8%. The only other brand to beat this performance was Bentley (with 44% growth).

But can Suzuki crown this achievement with a category and/or overall win? Time will tell.

Winners of the categories and the overall winner will be announced at a gala event in Johannesburg on April 4.

IOL Motoring