- Rairdon's Fiat of Kirkland, Washington, requires all of its salespeople to know how to drive a manual transmission — and teach any customer who wants to learn.
- General Sales Manager Tom Gloster said the dealership is determined to go the extra mile for customers who want a stick-shift Fiat for the fun of it but don't know how to drive it.
- There's been a lot of interest in the new 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth with the automatic transmission, Gloster told Edmunds, especially among customers who do a lot of in-town driving.
KIRKLAND, Washington — Rairdon's Fiat of Kirkland, Washington shows its customers in many ways that it's willing to go the extra mile, but the dealer really goes above and beyond by actually teaching shoppers how to drive a manual-transmission car.
The dealership's blog calls the Fiat 500 "one of the most ideal vehicles to learn how to drive stick on" and says Rairdon's Fiat of Kirkland is "all about bringing the manual transmission back to the forefront."
Fiat spokeswoman Angela Bianchi told Edmunds that about 25 percent of Fiats sold in the United States have manual transmissions. Tom Gloster, general sales manager of the Seattle-area dealership, said many customers come in wanting to buy a Fiat 500 with a manual transmission but don't know how to drive one. He told Edmunds that every salesperson is required to know how to use a stick shift — and train prospective buyers, too.
"We have a good mix of buyers," Gloster said, "about 50/50 male and female, and anywhere from 21-year-olds who just love the styling to 50-year-olds who remember when Fiats were sold in the U.S. in the old days, back in the 1970s."
Among those, there are quite a few customers who haven't learned how to drive a manual-transmission car.
"We encourage them," he said, describing a recent prospective buyer who had selected a Fiat 500 with a manual. "We actually took him up to a parking lot a few blocks away and taught him how to drive it. Then he went out on the street from there, and after about 20 minutes he understood how to drive it."
Does Rairdon's Fiat of Kirkland teach on the very cars it has for sale?
"We do!" said Gloster.
He added that just because lessons are available, not every customer is a convert.
"We've had customers who just weren't comfortable," he said. "If they felt like they needed to get an automatic, we sell those, too."
Gloster said there has been a lot of interest in the automatic-transmission version of the 2015 Fiat 500 Abarth, which was announced earlier this summer and is expected to reach Gloster's showroom soon.
Edmunds says: Rairdon's Fiat of Kirkland goes above and beyond the call of duty to make its buyers comfortable behind the wheel.