However, the results show this was no walk in the park and it came in for a tough fight, particularly from General Motors SA which leapt 10.6 points in the overall scoring to finish second overall ahead of Ford/Mazda.
Nissan scored 69 points in the overall placing to win by just 0.4 points and, this year, did not emerge as the winner of either the Rental or the Leasing section - scoring a best place second in the Leasing category but still amassing enough points to be the overall top manufacturer.
In the Rental section it was Toyota that earned the Gold award, improving by six points from last year to head the log by a comfortable margin (1.6 points) from Silver award winners Mercedes-Benz with Bronze winners Volkswagen just 0.1 points behind Mercedes-Benz.
Gold in the Leasing section went to General Motors SA which improved by 13.4 points in this segment from last year to notch up 73.6 points, taking the title by 2.4 points from Nissan, which earned the Silver award by improving its score from last year by 3.3 points.
The Bronze award in this category went to Ford/Mazda, improving its score from last year by 4.4 points.
In all 23 manufacturers were scored in the 2005 competition and, significantly, the majority trend was one of improvement with almost all manufacturers gaining ground on their scores from last year.
The most dramatic change came from Saab with a 21.4 point improvement over last year to move from 22nd to 16th in the rankings.
However, as Saab does not compete in the Rental section this improvement is limited to Leasing only and, as such, is probably not a fair reflection of ?true? improvement.
Hyundai is, therefore, the most improved, moving up from 12th to 7th overall with a 16.7 point improvement overall and showing the most gain in both the Rental and Leasing segments, with Renault up 12.7 points.
Subaru showed a gain of 14.9 points and Volvo 14.7 but both were scored only in the Leasing category.
Just to emphasise the level of competition this year - Nissan fell back by 2.3 points overall, Mercedes-Benz dipped 3.8 points and Ford/Mazda slipped 0.6 points.
In 2003 the overall average points score in the combined Rental/Leasing table was 40.9.
This dropped to 37.6 in 2004 but has climbed right up to 44.4 for the 2005 competition.
Similarly, the overall averages in the two segments are well up on both last year and 2003 - again pointing to a new level of awareness by the manufacturers as to the importance of the competition and to fleet business in general.
Says Denis Andrews, fleet manager for a chemical company:
"The Manufacturer of the Year awards have an impact on us - the better the relationship between the automakers and the leasing companies, the better the kind of deal we are able to negotiate; not specifically in terms of discount values but more in terms of confidence, knowing there is a strong, solid link between the two.
"It kind of keeps the motor companies honest."
Anthony Calcutt of Kondile and Associates Management Consultants was responsible for collating and analysing the results of the two surveys that are conducted each year to determine the overall winner.
"The SAVRALA Manufacturer of the Year Award is a combination of 11 Rental and 10 Leasing and Fleet Management companies rating 23 motor manufacturers using a survey containing 50 different questions," he says.
"This survey is run twice a year, in April and again in September, and questionnaires are completed not by one individual at a company, but by a panel of people who depend on, and deal with, each manufacturer.
"This is in order to obtain an accurate, objective, unbiased and company-wide perspective of the service levels experienced.
"The biggest area of improvement seen from the rental respondents this year was communication with ?timeous information on new models or changes? being the question with the greatest positive movement.
"Questions surrounding value showed the least improvement with ?protection of residual values? fairing the worst compared with last year. There is a similar trend with motor dealers selling used vehicles who have found the second hand market very tough over the last year or two. This seems to have had more of a negative effect on the manufacturers with more expensive models in their line up.
General Motors came second. Here's the team!
"It is pleasing to note two areas which could be considered as most important to rental companies are the questions where the overall average of all manufacturers is the highest, these being ?scope of intervals of service? and ?theft prevention effectiveness?.
"With regard to the leasing & fleet management section, it was again communication that improved significantly, with the question of whether each manufacturer ?understands and respects the role of SAVRALA members? having the best increase.
"Having a better understanding has certainly helped, with improvements in all the remaining questions which encompass ?financial issues?, ?maintenance and support? and ?communication and marketing?.
"As with the rental section, the area of most concern to the leasing & fleet management companies this past year has been whether ?manufacturer?s marketing actions support the retention of resale values?.
"With the current low interest rates and new vehicle price increases being kept to a minimum, this problem unfortunately affects all spheres of the used vehicle industry.
"One manufacturer stands out as having consistently, over the last three years, improved in its support of both the Rental and the Leasing & Fleet Management SAVRALA members.
"This acknowledgement goes to Hyundai."