HONORA BAY—Manitoulin Island is the perfect location to demonstrate the 2022 GMC Sierra AT4X pickup truck, featuring the beautiful backdrop of limestone escarpment and a challenging track put together by Gary Sowerby and his crew and Randy Noble (of H and R Noble Trucking Construction). On July 20, officials from General Motors of Canada Company (GMC) hosted journalists from across Canada at the track located near the Cup and Saucer trail, in the Randy Noble and Meredith Chandler quarry pit, to demonstrate the 2022 AT4X. Also on hand were some 2022 Sierra Denalis.
Back in 2017, GMC filmed an advertisement as part of its Canadian Dream Campaign for Silverado, featuring Little Current resident Gord Bickell and his daughter, Kristen. “We looked forward to getting back to the Island,” said James Hodge, brand director, Buick GMC.
Mr. Sowerby is president of Odyssey International LTP, the company hired by GMC to organize the event. “We needed an off-road area to hold a demonstration of the GMC Sierra AT4X super off-road capable pickup truck, to demonstrate what it can do,” he said. “When we came to Manitoulin Island earlier this year, we just decided right there we needed to have it on the Island.”
They do two-day drives around Ontario and had many options to choose from, Mr. Sowerby explained. He needed to find an off-road trail or a pit to host the event on Manitoulin. On his search around the Island, he met Robby Colwell, airport manager at Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport, and asked if there was something that could be done there. The airport property wasn’t going to work and while the Lafarge pit on the West End might have worked, the timing didn’t. Mr. Colwell suggested he talk to Randy Noble or one of his staff members, Larry Morrison. Mr. Noble offered to have Mr. Morrison show him the gravel pit near the Cup and Saucer trails. “When Larry took us on a tour of the pit, we said this will work,” Mr. Sowerby explained.
To launch the new pickup, GMC was looking for an area that showcases the capabilities and premium attributes of the new Sierra AT4X and found the perfect location on Manitoulin Island, said Natalie Nankil, director, product communications at GMC. “We started in Toronto on Tuesday, spent overnight in Tobermory and are now playing in the pits,” quipped Ms. Nankil.
The Sierra AT4X was in its element at the Noble/Chandler quarry pit. “This is a pretty aggressive off-road track that has been set up. Randy built it over the past couple of weeks. He’s been so accommodating through all of this,” said Mr. Hodge, noting that GMC had a tech engineer design the track with Mr. Noble. There were 10 GMC Sierras and about six support vehicles present for the showcase event. The crew included GMC company drivers, executives, journalists from car and truck magazine publications from British Columbia and Ontario, company photographers and event videographer Robert Maxwell of Evansville, who was providing drone video footage.
“It’s more of a closed event,” said Ron McQuarrie, owner/manager of McQuarrie Motors. “They had decided to tour Manitoulin Island and were able to set up here and make it fun and interesting for the journalists and to demonstrate what these trucks can do. Hopefully, we’ll get good articles about the new trucks through publications like Motor Trend and Canadian Trucking Alliance.”
GMC hosts this type of event for journalists around Canada for every vehicle they release, Mr. Hodge explained. “We have drone footage as well, to show the different elevations and show off what these trucks can do.”
GMC has worked with Odyssey for about 20 years. “In 1994, GMC asked us to start organizing events to help with launches like this one, he added. “All manufacturers do this. They put on an event. They used us to do one. They liked it and we’ve done about 250 of these similar events since the 1990s.”
Mr. Sowerby and his wife Lisa needed an off-road track to use for this event. “It’s been incredible working with people on the Island. I just can’t believe the hospitality we’ve received,” he said. “These are real people and they’ve opened their doors, especially Randy and his people. For example, last Thursday I had called Randy and said we need a payloader at the site on Saturday. He said no problem, whatever you need, we will help. He helped set up tents for us. After doing this type of stuff for 43 years working in 80 countries, it makes me feel good when you know there are so many good people out there.”
Mr. Sowerby is 71 years old. People ask him when he’s going to retire. “I say, ‘why, when I get to meet new and wonderful people?’”
He included Garden’s Gate Restaurant owners as some of the “new and wonderful people,” explaining the crew had eaten breakfast earlier that day, while on board the Chi-Cheemaun ferry heading from Tobermory to South Baymouth. Not wanting to provide another meal too soon after breakfast, he got in touch with the new owners of the Garden’s Gate Restaurant in Tehkummah and asked if they could help with lunch. “We didn’t want to leave here and have to travel back to the restaurant and then have to come back to finish up the event at the pit, so they provided box lunches for everyone on hand,” Mr. Sowerby said.
GMC officials had nothing but praise for Islanders who helped to organize the event and for the Island itself. “Randy and his staff have been exceptionally helpful. It speaks to the character of the people around here,” added Mr. Hodge.