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The article How Ferrari spins by Chris "Monkey" Harris contains claims that Ferrari has dishonest practices with the press.

How bad has it been? I honestly don't know where to start. Perhaps the 360 Modena press car that was two seconds faster to 100mph than the customer car we also tested. You allow some leeway for "factory fresh" machines, but this thing was ludicrously quick and sounded more like Schumacher's weekend wheels than a street car. Ferrari will never admit that its press cars are tuned, but has the gall to turn up at any of the big European magazines' end-of-year-shindig-tests with two cars. One for straight line work, the other for handling exercises. Because that's what happens when you buy a 458: they deliver two for just those eventualities. 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.

The article is fun to read but is presented like a conspiracy theory: nobody else tells you this, since they fear Ferrari so much.

Does Ferrari really give better cars to the press than they sell to customers? (And by 'better' I mean more suited to the tests that will be performed)

  • The Truth About Cars have been following this story for some time. Reading between the lines something is going on, however, it is Chris Harris that consistently gets a mention: thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/… – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jun 1 '11 at 9:14
  • This question basically comes down to "Is Chris Harris lying or is Ferrari lying". :-) I'm not sure what kind of answer would be acceptable. – Lennart Regebro Jun 1 '11 at 9:57
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    @Lennart, independent tests of new Ferraris actually purchased by customers against the published metrics would decide matters, wouldn't they? – Oddthinking Jun 1 '11 at 13:40
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    @Oddthinking: I strongly suspect that anyone who recently bought a Ferrari would be unwilling to subject it to a test that might prove it's less a car then they originally thought. I wonder if Top Gear, where Ferrari is sometimes criticized, has ever mentioned such practices? For that matter, I wonder if they would have reported numbers that could lend light to the subject? – Jon Ericson Jun 3 '11 at 20:32
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    I think it is endemic in the car industry; has anyone managed to make their reported fuel consumption? Has anyone managed to get their computer to actually tell them the truth, or to match 0-60 times? I had a Focus ST tuned to 270bhp and only then managed to match the factory acceleration numbers; ostensibly, if they manage to perform thiese times, and conumptions, they are done in a non real world way (I have witnessed a 0-60 time trial by a manufacturer and no one would subject their car to it). It's all a big con. – Hairy Jun 28 '11 at 8:37
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Ben Collins (the second "The Stig" from the UK car program Top Gear) wrote a detailed and (in my opinion) convincing response to these claims.

In short: production cars vary anyway; manufacturers typically pick a good example, give it more time to run in, and frequently add several optional extras (which are disclosed). High end cars like Ferraris have many user-configurable options, which will be optimised. They also turn up to track events with mechanics and stacks of fresh tires. Race tracks will of course allow faster driving than the public road. Some niche manufacturers have attempted to cheat by e.g. using racing tyres; big marques have not apparently been caught doing this.

Whether you consider any of the above to be cheating is up to you; I actually don't consider it cheating since any (well-heeled) customer could replicate these without modifying a production car.

Note that covers only magazine tests - exploiting loopholes on standardized fuel efficiency tests is a different kettle of fish, and apparently widespread.

I'd personally consider the fuel efficiency test manipulation much more like cheating - there's no expectation that these will match what a customer could replicate without modifying a production car.

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