- May 15, 2005
- Melbourne, Australia
- Ford Focus XR5T
http://theage.drive.com.au/motor-news/ferrari-accused-of-doctoring-test-cars-20110216-1awg6.htmlUK motoring writer accuses Ferrari of modifying cars loaned to the media so they're faster than those sold to enthusiasts.
A respected British motoring writer has unleashed a barrage on Ferrari, implying it doctors road test vehicles loaned to the media and wants to control what is written about its cars.
Writing on popular international automotive website Jalopnik, Chris Harris - a former road tester for UK car magazine Autocar and now freelancing - accuses Ferrari of specially preparing vehicles for the media and ensuring they are faster than those sold to the public.
Such claims are not new among motoring writers; it's common for car makers to send cars down the production line tagged as media vehicles - ensuring bolts are properly tightened and extra attention is paid to quality - while vehicles are regularly checked and re-checked before being handed out for road test, particularly with larger, more influential publications.
Advertisement: Story continues below However, Harris suggests Ferrari - one of the most aspirational brands in the world - has modified cars to ensure they perform better than those sold to enthusiasts.
He references a test in which he claims a 360 Modena from a decade ago was "two seconds faster to 100mph [161km/h] than the customer car we also tested".
Then there are the stories of Ferrari turning up to major magazine tests with two cars, "one for straight line work, the other for handling excercises", implying the two cars have been tweaked for the specific disciplines.
"Because that's what happens when you buy a [Ferrari] 458: they deliver two for just those eventualities," writes Harris sarcastically.
"The whole thing stinks. In any other industry it wouldn't be allowed to happen. It's dishonest, but all the mags take it between the cheeks because they're too scared of not being invited to drive the next new Ferrari."
He also refers to a test of a V12-powered 599 where Ferrari asked the publication (Autocar) what track it would be testing the car at so the factory could send a team and car to the track to optimise it for the particular test.
"[They] then invited us to drive this 'standard' 599. They must have been having a laugh," he wrote in the fiery column.
Harris implies some of the Ferrari magic is being lost by such attempted control of the media.
"What Ferrari plainly cannot see is that its strategy to win every test at any cost is completely counter-productive. First, it completely undermines the amazing work of its own engineers."
He also derides the red tape involved with dealing with a company that doesn't like its vehicles being compared with other sports car brands and can be difficult to borrow cars from.
"The ecstasy of driving a new Ferrari is now almost always eradicated by the pain of dealing with the organisation," wrote Harris, who is a keen racer, has owned many sports cars, and is known for his driving skill and ability to judge a car.
Harris acknowledges that audiences love reading about Ferraris and that it is "the most famous fast car brand of all".
But while acknowledging the power of the Ferrari brand he says: "I couldn't care if I never drive a new Ferrari again, if it means I never have to deal with the insane communication machine and continue lying about the lengths to which Ferrari will bend any rule to get what it wants."
He also admits he's not likely to be invited to the company's head office any time soon.
Closer to home, veteran Wheels writer Peter Robinson - who previously lived in Italy not far from Ferrari's home town of Maranello - has been banned twice from visiting the factory or borrowing Ferraris for a road test.
"One time I was in the factory and they snatched my visitor tag and said, 'Today's tour is over and we'd like you to leave,' because of something I'd written," said Robinson.
The bans have since been lifted and Robinson says he's "in favour at the moment".
Since taking over the distribution of Ferrari in Australia in 2005, European Automotive Importers, the Ferrari Australia importer, has been forthcoming with road test vehicles and access to senior Ferrari executives.
However, a spokesman for EAI declined to comment on Harris's story.