Earlier this week, the Ferrari world was lit up by a lawsuit that alleged one LaFerrari hypercar had its odometer rolled back to zero in order to dramatically increase its resale value. In addition, the lawsuit implied this happened with Ferrari’s knowledge and that it was not an isolated incident. I’ve been trying to confirm if these allegations are actually based in reality, and what I’ve encountered is a vast wall of exotic Italian stone.
Here’s how the lawsuit describes the incident:
51. On or about October 22, 2015, one of Defendants’ technicians utilized the Deis Tester device to reset the odometer on McMillan’s 2015 Ferrari LaFerrari to “0.” McMillan paid the technician cash to perform this operation. The Ferrari entities were aware of the operation because the technician had to obtain logon information from Ferrari N.A. to use the device and because the technician was on the phone with Ferrari N.A. during the operation. Defendants authorized the technician to take the Deis Tester device to the customer’s premises to use on the vehicle.
So, based on this, it appears that Ferrari technicians, using the official Ferrari DEIS Tester diagnostic tool, are able to roll back odometer readings, all with digital approval from the factory’s servers. That, of course, is illegal.
My goal was to confirm this. I wanted to know if it is, in fact, possible to roll an odometer back to zero (or back at all) with the DEIS Tester. I wanted to know if Ferrari corporate servers are involved in this process, and if the odometer data is stored in other locations on the car (other ECUs, etc) so that Ferrari owners might be able to determine if their odometers have been rolled back.
First, I contacted Ferrari North America itself, and received this statement:
We do not comment on litigation between a dealer and its employees. This litigation involves third parties with respect to Ferrari North America and the litigation does not involve Ferrari. Ferrari reserves the right to take all appropriate action against any party that has adversely affected its rights.
A standard response, but it doesn’t answer any of my questions. Since Ferrari corporate won’t be any help, I decided to try calling Ferrari dealership service centers, since they’d have access to the exact same tools used by the Palm Beach dealership, and could at least let me know if this was even possible.
I suppose I was a bit naive.
I called a whole bunch of Ferrari dealerships, all over the country, and nobody wanted to talk to me about this. Once they heard that my question involved odometers at all, they got nervous and clammed up, quickly.
Even when I tried to just find out if the odometer data, or even related data, was stored on any ECUs other than in the instrument cluster’s memory, I was told by one shop:
“I know what you’re getting at, and I don’t want any part of this.”
And that was just from a company that sold Ferrari service tools, not even an actual dealership.
One independent Ferrari tech told me, when I mentioned the phrase “odometer tampering,” to “get the word ‘tampered’ out of your head,” though I’m not really clear why it’s not ‘tampering.’
(Now, that same tech did say that the Ferrari Challenge track cars didn’t use a normal instrument cluster, and the odometer and speedometer data came from the gearbox’s ECU, though he suggested that was only for track cars, which doesn’t help us here.)
A Ferrari tech who wishes to remain anonymous did hint that there may be ways to find the true odometer data, even for cars where the odometer has been rolled back:
“... that was not condoned by Ferrari. With a[n] instrument cluster module replacement, you have to input mileage into the new cluster. Although you can reset the mileage to show 0 in the cluster, the actual mileage is stored in various modules in the vehicle. This can be detected by any Ferrari dealer with a diag scan.”
I was unable to get any other Ferrari service tech to confirm or deny the ability of a diagnostic scan to reveal other sources of odometer data.
Perhaps the best information I got was from Bozi Tatarevic, a friend and fellow auto writer over at The Truth About Cars. Bozi has a dealership background, and has some access to service procedures for Ferrari and other automakers.
When it comes to instrument cluster replacement and odometer resetting, he told me this:
The older Ford/Mazda WDS software could do it under a specific set of circumstances (Mileage can only be change up, not down, cluster must be new with <100 miles on it, etc. The new IDS software seem to have removed the option altogether.
GM seems to have gone the opposite way. They used to require the cluster to be sent out to a certified speedometer shop but now they allow dealer techs to change the odometer reading using the Tech 2 tool on a live connection to SPS using their TIS2Web service.
VAG (VW, Audi, etc) cars seem to follow a similar system using the VAS software and an encrypted connection over their Geko system to program a cluster. The tool only allows for clusters with less than 62 miles on them to be programmed, and only once. The only option in the software is for a forward correction for cluster replacement.
The rest are unclear right now as I don’t see much noted but all of the ones that allow the change only allow it to be done in a forward manner (adding miles) and none would allow rollback at least based on their documentation. Some of the rest appear to have gotten rid of the option to change mileage and have gone to the secondary option of installing a cluster with 0 miles when one needs to be replaced and attaching a decal to the car noting the change as required by law.
If the Ferrari DEIS software is able to change the odometer to go down then it stands alone in that regard.
I called other dealers to confirm this, and overall odometer changing is a non-trivial task. A Lamborghini service tech I spoke with described the process as requiring the tech to get a “token” from the manufacturer’s servers, which tagged the tech’s own ID and information to the procedure.
The mileage data from the odometer to a new instrument cluster can only be downloaded right from Lamborghini’s own servers, not input or reset by the tech. In cases where the car’s data was damaged, the most recent verified odometer data is used as a baseline.
That same Lambo tech did mention that he worked for Mercedes-Benz a number of years ago, and techs could just enter new odometer data directly, but he emphasized that system has likely changed.
So, it does seem that if the Ferrari DEIS Tester tool allows for an odometer to be zeroed out, it’s unusual in the industry. His Autocheck run found at least one car—a Ferrari Enzo, of all things—with evidence of possible odometer tampering.
The ever-resourceful Bozi was also helpful when answering my questions about if the mileage information is available anywhere else on the car. There does seem to be such a way, and it’s known as the “Distance Run” parameter.
This comes from the transmission’s control unit, and records how many miles are run in each gear (well, except for reverse, probably for Ferris Bueller-related reasons). Bozi even sent me a sample report:
So, this is potentially good news for any Ferrari owners who want to try and confirm if their mileage is actually what it says on the dashboard.
The upshot of all this is that I really still have not been able to absolutely confirm if it is possible to clear a Ferrari’s odometer with Ferrari’s own DEIS Tester tool. I can’t confirm if the procedure requires Ferrari HQ’s approval, tacit or otherwise, and I can’t absolutely tell used Ferrari owners if they can trust their odometers.
If anyone works with these sorts of tools and Ferraris, please get in touch with us. We just want to know the truth here, and unless we can get in contact with someone we can confirm is an authorized Ferrari tech, we just don’t know.