It was by all accounts a good day, at the new AMTA test facility in the shadow of Edmonton International Airport. As the first time the event has been held in western Canada, response from attendees was abundantly positive to the Ride & Drive hosted by NAFA’s western chapter.

CAF headed out to the Prairies to the staging ground, and were greeted by principal coordinator Amy Reny and her group of professionals. Amy was optimistic and excited for the opportunity the day would present to bring together people from many sides of the fleet business. “We’ve got 45 vehicles of varying size and configuration on hand, and 11 OEMs participating, and a number of vendors on site, so this is a great chance for people from different backgrounds to meet”. It was also a great forum for potential buyers to get into vehicles that they may not have tried out before, with the organizers providing a closed-track driving course.

A cone-festooned maze supervised by instructors from Canadian Traffic Education Centre (who also had a fun driving simulator on site, to demonstrate some the tech the advanced driving school uses to simulate difficult driving conditions in a variety of vehicles), the facility gave potential buyers some hands-on handling time with anything they wanted. All the vehicles on display were driveable on the track.

This helped lead to a number of folk finding some pleasant surprises – one of which was Mercedes’ Sprinter van. “I can’t believe how well this thing drives”, said Marcus Bassett of Shell Fleet Solutions, pleased by the surprising stability of the big van’s stability control and integrated combination of braking and yaw control technology. He wasn’t the only one to discover that Sprinter is a worthy contender. “So, people take the Sprinter out and they come back and say “wow!” because they are not going to expect the drive that this vehicle provides”. Said Brian Ho from Mercedes-Benz Edmonton West.

Asked about the level of interest he found at the event, he told CAF: “I haven’t talked to a lot of people, but for me – because I’m a fleet guy – I’d rather talk to maybe only a few guys but who are exactly who I want to talk to, than speak to fifty people who aren’t in my area”.

He wasn’t the only OEM rep to find an appreciative audience at the Ride & Drive – Aaron Glena from Edmonton’s Southside Mitsubishi was getting very good feedback about the company’s Outlander PHEV, already the best-selling 4WD plugin hybrid in the world: “I’ve had a number of people who were really impressed, one purchaser told me that he figured after the first year, they’d have equalized what  a competing similar vehicle was worth, and also loved the warranty and the environmental aspect”.

Of course, no such event is truly successful without some food, and the organizer delivered. Catering trucks served the crowd at midday, representing  the Lemongrass Grill.

Most of the major players in the business were accounted for at this Western debut of the event, including BMW, FCA, GM, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and others.

Vendors who set up their booths at the periphery to showcase their aftermarket talents (from vehicle wraps to body kits and specialized outfitting) shared a likewise positive view of the day. Dean Radke of Action Car & Truck reported: “I’ve made two really good contacts, two that I didn’t have before. And even one is all it takes to make it good”.

And that is what it all boils down to. The 2019 NAFA Ride and Drive brought a wealth of opportunity for meeting new people from some pretty attractive potential clients - Shell Canada, Atco, Alberta Energy Regulator, Kal Tire, the Edmonton Police Service and the province’s Liquor and Gaming Commission were all represented, among others – as well as a convenient forum for professional networking and brainstorming.

Congratulations to Amy and her team for coming out of the gates hard for this inaugural event, and Reny is already looking forward to next year’s iteration. CAF is looking forward to covering it, but we’ll leave the last word to General Motors Canada’s Mark Salamandick and Doran Cammaert when  asked if they were glad they came: “Yes, definitely. It’s always nice with more attendees, but it was a great day, and we had the right type of people coming through – people who make impactful decisions for fleet. “With this being the first year, I think it is only going to grow from here on out. The nice thing about it was the organizers had everything really dialed-in, everything from the displays to the food trucks, was handled really professionally. We would be more than happy to support it in the future, and are absolutely looking forward to coming out to this event again.”.

GM Canada’s Doran Cammaert and Mark Salamandick enjoy some sunshine during the ride and drive.

 Ride and Drive attendees Giulio Arlia, Jeff Reader, Warren Madigan, Darrell Robinson and John Tymchyshyn.

Ashley Hyland and Michelle Dunning, ARI with Shawn Bryan and Aaron Glena, Mitsubishi. 

Russ Seton and Kevin Forodi, Hyundai Canada. 

Raul Cartagena and Geoff Quick, BMW. 

Mike Weatherby, FCA. 

Dean Radke, Action Car & Truck Accessories. 

Kaz Uyesugi and Keagan Wallace, Volkswagen with Jordan Arsenault, Driving Force. 

Mike Fagen and Don Wallace, Jim Pattison Lease. 

Mathew Johnson, Ben Sheehan, Keith Walton and David Randall, Calmont Volvo truck Centre. 

Wayne Cardinal, CTEC with an advanced driver training simulator. 

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