Jose Lambiet

Ferrari says it will stop rolling back odometers on fancy pre-owned cars

A 2016 Ferrari 488 Spider.
A 2016 Ferrari 488 Spider. Miami Herald File

Until recently, Ferrari dealers in South Florida and elsewhere were able to roll back the odometers of the fancy pre-owned cars they sold.

But when the Miami Herald and other media organizations brought attention to it, the company discontinued the practice that could grossly inflate the value of used Ferraris, according to new documents filed in a Palm Beach County lawsuit.

In an internal Ferrari memo filed Feb. 8 in the lawsuit brought by a former showroom salesman-turned-whistleblower Robert “Bud” Root, Ferrari North America notifies dealers it will no longer provide access codes that for years allowed an app called DEIS tester to make miles driven vanish from dashboards of Spiders, Californias and 488 GTBs.

“The odometer ‘reset to zero’ functionality is being removed,” the memo reads. It also announces the removal from its Ferrari Workshop Manuals of the paragraphs that taught techs how to roll back miles.

“This internal Ferrari bulletin appears to confirm exactly what we suspected all along, that the odometer rollback device has been in place in Ferrari dealership service departments nationwide, if not worldwide, for many years [and] that the odometer rollback procedure was sanctioned at the highest organizational level,” said West Palm Beach attorney David Brodie, who represents Root.

“The practice ceased after my client, Bud Root, blew the whistle and just days after his story was picked up by the media. What remains now is to determine how pervasive this practice has been and to compel Ferrari to come clean.”

After spending 22 years selling Ferraris throughout South Florida, Root sued for libel Ferrari of Palm Beach and one of his clients, former Sara Lee Corp. CEO C. Steven McMillan.

Root claims he was fired after discovering odometers got rolled back and discussing it with McMillan, who allegedly then paid off a mechanic from the dealership to roll back his LaFerrari mileage.

Root explained in court paper the rollback — which had to be green-lit by Ferrari headquarters in Italy — instantly increased the resale value of McMillan’s $3 million-LaFerrari by $1 million, Root’s lawsuit claims.

Root says he was fired by Ferrari of Palm Beach in January 2016 for “egregious violation of business ethics,” allegedly facilitating McMillan’s rollback.

What really happened, Root says in the suit, is that he was targeted after he loudly objected to the use of the rollback device.

Root was rehired in March 2016. Since then, however, he claims Ferrari of Palm Beach engaged in a pattern of retaliation, including his move to an office that’s harder to reach by customers.

In a statement, Ferrari of North America Director of Communications Krista Florin said the company did nothing wrong or illegal.

“Resetting an odometer to zero in case of a malfunction of the odometer when the pre-repair mileage is unknown is consistent with the federal odometer law,” Florin wrote. “Ferrari determined that the risks of odometer fraud in the United States from unauthorized use of the DEIS tool outweighed the convenience of this functionality, and thus, Ferrari has informed its network with a technical bulletin of a software update to eliminate the odometer reset functionality.”

Poet Dave Landsberger, in an ode to the Fast and Furious franchise, drives around Miami in a cherry-red Ferrari reading poetry to the unsuspecting public.