The first thing to do is to study your cards and your Company Profile. Then check how many trend categories your cards have in common. Study your opponents profiles, this is the only open information in the game and it is a given that you recognize their potentials. Try to play in sections to your strengths or their weaknesses, it can be very expensive to compete otherwise. It can help at first to set selective disks that you plan to play in specific sections that are also on your company profile, alongside but off those sections of the company profile.
Winning the majority is usually good for only one category, with the easiest win for categories by saving for the promotion category. If you go for the majority on models, it is much harder to fill a trend because you will likely be low on money by the time you reach the promotion category. On a round when other players have passed and have not covered all the sections, be prepared to fill them yourself.
The easiest and cheapest (not easy, not cheap) way to get a victory token is by filling a "trend".
It is easier to fill a trend if you start from the top (models in common on your cards), but you may not have that option. Try to win the necessary model section regardless of commonalities in your cards. Then follow through with a fairly strong play in the engineering section that will complement filling the trend. Finally, as play progresses you continue to try to win the prerequisite promotion section as well.
Hopefully there are some combinations of elements where you have strength to use your cards and profile to allocate disks towards filling a trend on one or more cards.
If and when it becomes evident that you cannot fill a trend this year, measure the difference between using your card play for spoiling the opponent in the lead, cashing in on unfilled trend card play, or saving card(s) for the next year.
Car of the Year:
Since the Car of the Year token is awarded largely by luck, it is not something to count on except when you are already heavily seeded in the pool, then it is worth a pursuit of that goal by the time of the promotion section sequence.
This can be achieved either by card play as trend (just for the money), or tactical card play when possible.
Most cards are quite a dilemma in themselves as to whether to use tactically or strategically for a trend. Attempt to save at least one card for filling a trend, while using potentially complementary cards tactically to help insure it's completion.
Since by the end of a year any remaining cards can be kept or played for trends, there is not always an easy choice. If you have a chance at Car of the Year, play all cards that give you 1 or 2 sections, since that is money to seed the Car of the Year draw. Play for trend when you are cash low, as that will give you extra cash.
One strategy is to save all your cards for the last year! While this might sound silly, and you will probably be in last place at this point, you can make quite a play and fill multiple trends at once this way – possibly gaining the lead.
Being late in turn order is a distinct advantage in most cases. Since you can't always be last, work with it. At least you are in a better position early in turn order to exercise power plays - obviously not too often though.
Conservative play is a good start, try to spend your money slowly so you have plenty left by the promotions category sequence.
Focus on how your profile allocations can save you money in your strong areas.
Have a “plan B” worked out in advance, because you are not going to win all the sections you vie for.
A good bet is to play your first disk or 2 on a "plan B" section, so as not to tip your hand too soon. Conversely, watch your opponents as they play on the promotion section very carefully. This is where you have a real opportunity screw up their trends.