Law­suit: Fer­rari rolls back odome­ters

For­mer sales­man says Fla. deal­er­ship main­tained de­vice

USA TODAY US Edition - - MONEY - Chris Wood­yard @ChrisWood­yard USA TO­DAY

A Fer­rari deal­er­ship in Florida main­tained a de­vice that al­lowed it to roll back odome­ters on the ex­otic sports cars, a law­suit filed by a for­mer sales­man al­leges.

The de­vice, called a Deis Tester, is “likely” in use at other Fer­rari deal­er­ships in the U.S. and around the world and that the Ital­ian au­tomaker is in­formed ev­ery time the ma­chine is used for a roll­back, says the suit filed by Robert “Bud” Root of Palm Beach Gar­dens, Fla., against deal­er­ship chain New Coun­try Mo­tor Car Group.

The law­suit al­leges the deal­er­ship where Root worked, Palm Beach Fer­rari, “sought to keep the odome­ter re­set pro­ce­dure se­cret” to avoid reg­u­la­tory and crim­i­nal con­se­quences. It also was try­ing to avoid fall­out for Fer­rari if the ex­is­tence of the de­vice be­came known.

“One can only imag­ine” how many odome­ter re­sets have been per­formed over the past seven years in which the de­vice has been in use world­wide at Fer­rari deal­er­ships and “how many times those Fer­raris with fraud­u­lent odome­ter read­ings have been sold and resold in the mar­ket­place to un­sus­pect­ing pur­chasers,” the law­suit says.

Fer­rari, how­ever, ap­pears to make no se­cret of what it calls the DEIS sys­tem. It’s men­tioned in the tech sec­tion of the Fer­rari U.S. web­site as a di­ag­nos­tic tool that can be used in re­pro­gram­ming a car’s main en­gine com­puter.

The suit refers only to one spe­cific roll­back. It in­volved the re­set­ting of the odome­ter on a 2015 Fer­rari LaFer­rari that had been pur­chased in May 2015 for $1.5 mil­lion. It had its odome­ter re­set to zero some five months later, the suit says.

Root says he was fired af­ter wrong­fully be­ing ac­cused of par­tic­i­pat­ing in an odome­ter roll­back.

An at­tor­ney for the deal­er­ship, Alan Grun­span, said in re­sponse to the suit the odome­ter roll­back was done without the deal­er­ship’s knowl­edge or per­mis­sion.

“The sin­gle odome­ter in­ci­dent re­ferred to by plain­tiff was done af­ter hours, off deal­er­ship premises, without deal­er­ship’s knowl­edge, without deal­er­ship’s per­mis­sion and without the deal­er­ship’s autho­riza­tion, by a tech­ni­cian who no longer works for the deal­er­ship,” the state­ment reads.

Fer­rari, which is not named as a de­fen­dant, said it had no com­ment on the law­suit.

Af­ter 15 years sell­ing Fer­raris at an­other deal­er­ship, Root moved to Fer­rari of Palm Beach, which is owned by New Coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the suit. By the end of 2015, the suit says Root was gen­er­at­ing $2 mil­lion in an­nual profit for the de­fen­dants.

Grun­span says Root’s le­gal ac­tion is, at its core, an age dis­crim­i­na­tion law­suit that has al­ready taken a lot of twists.

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