Luxury supercar marque Ferrari has admitted it was aware of dealers using a device that allowed technicians to reset the mileage on used cars. A former salesman for the brand, Bud Root, filed a legal case against the Italian manufacturer last year, claiming he was fired for whistleblowing on the practice.
A device known as a 'DEIS tester' was used to roll vehicle odometers back, allowing used vehicles to be sold for extremely high prices. Root alleges that this practice only took place with the express permission of Ferrari head office, casting doubt on the mileage of the brand's used cars.
Ferrari has responded to the case, releasing an internal bulletin telling dealers and technicians to immediately stop using the device, and it would release a software update removing the functionality from the DEIS tester.
Attorney David Brodie, who represents Root, said in a statement: "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 – that the odometer rollback procedure was sanctioned at the highest organisational level," he wrote in a statement.
"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 and reveal the VIN number and odometer rollback data relating to each and every Ferrari for which is supplied an odometer rollback access code. Ferrari has a duty and obligation to its loyal customer base, the consuming public and its own shareholders to ensure this information is released forthwith."
Tampering with a vehicle's odometer remains an illegal practice in most of the world. Except in cases of mileage adjustment – fitting a used instrument cluster to a new car, for example – the practice carries prosecution, and in certain US states could even lead to imprisonment.
In the lawsuit, Root claims one of his clients, Steven McMillan, former CEO of food preparation company Sara Lee, paid a dealership technician to reduce his car's mileage to increase its value by nearly $1 million.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Ferrari of North America said that the company did nothing wrong or illegal, and said the memo was due to a software update and not the media pushback. "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," it said.