If you’re driving a Ferrari in South Florida, there’s a chance salesman Robert “Bud” Root helped you pick the Prancing Horse sportster that’s just right.
Now, however, brand fanatic Root filed a pair of lawsuits in state and federal courts that could give Ferrari officials in Italy a headache the size of an F12 engine.
Root, who spent two-thirds of his 22-year career selling Ferraris in Fort Lauderdale, claims he was fired from his current dealership in West Palm Beach after blowing the whistle on a shady practice that, he claims, involves dealerships and the brand’s manufacturer.
Root, 71, says dealers are allowed access to an app that’s capable of rolling back the digital odometers of Ferraris for sale in the lucrative pre-owned market.
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Root, now with Ferrari of Palm Beach, says the practice allows well-heeled owners to sell their prized wheels to unsuspecting buyers at grossly inflated prices.
Thing is, rolling back the odometer of a car can lead to felony charges in Florida.
In his lawsuit, Root even named one of his clients, retired Sara Lee food maker CEO C. Steven McMillan. Root says he mentioned the existence of the device, called Deis Tester, to McMillan to warn McMillan to be on the lookout for the practice.
According to the lawsuit, McMillan then paid off one of the dealership’s mechanics to have the odometer of his $3 million Ferrari rolled back to “0,” increasing the resale value by another million bucks – then blamed Root when he got caught.
In time, Root was fired for “egregious violation of business ethics.”
“Mr. Root was falsely and deliberately implicated in one instance of what could turn out to be numerous other illegal rollbacks of odometers on Ferraris,” said David Brodie, Root’s attorney. “And Mr. Root was maliciously defamed by those involved.
“The development, distribution and licensing of a device which authorizes and empowers Ferrari dealerships and technicians to perform illegal odometer rollbacks on Ferrari vehicles is patently irresponsible and brings into question the legitimacy of Ferrari odometer readings worldwide.”
One of his lawsuits mentions that Root is a whistleblower who refused to engage in potentially criminal acts, even if his discovery could tarnish the brand he loves.
“The Deis Tester,” the lawsuit reads, “contains a software program for resetting the odometer on a Ferrari to ‘0.’ Each time the Deis Tester is utilized on a Ferrari vehicle, authorization is obtained from Ferrari entities via a wireless network connection.”
Ferrari officials did not reply to two requests for comment. When reached at his waterfront mansion, former Sara Lee CEO McMillan declined comment.
“It’s b… s…, that’s what it is,” McMillan said.
A year ago, Ferrari of Palm Beach rehired Root after he agreed not to sue over his firing.
Since then, however, Root claims the dealership has engaged in a pattern of retaliation with measures that include forcing the elderly man to move to an upstairs office that he and clients have difficulties reaching because it’s accessible only by steep stairs.
So Root filed his court actions in November and religiously shows up for work every morning.