"Touching the cars" is Suburban's internal jargon for doing inventory--going down the lot and writing down stock number, year, color, and VIN. It reminds you of the scene in Fargo when Frances McDormand's sheriff asks William H. Macy's car dealer plaintively: "But how do yah really know if a car's missing?"
Tabet knows the scene well (he's a film buff). "Well, that's how we know," he laughs.
Then he offers an espresso.
Not the usual touch in a car showroom, but this is a Fiat dealership, which considers itself a place apart. "Fiat actually doesn't use the word 'dealership,'" he says. "They're called 'studios.' Our salespeople are called 'specialists.'"
This is one of only three Fiat studios in Michigan. The rounded cars come in about twenty (Italian) colors and look like M&Ms on wheels. They're so small that Tabet says fifty of them fit on the tiny lot, a onetime gas station next to the Stadium post office. "MINI is our arch-nemesis," he says, watching one drive by. "I don't know what's taking them so long, but I'm not complaining." He's referring to the MINI dealership on Jackson that's been under construction for a year. "We went up in two months."