On September 24, Maranello’s minions will issue a Ferrari brake recall for every car manufactured from 2005 to 2022. “These vehicles are equipped with a braking system that could potentially leak brake fluid,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Recall states, “which may lead to partial or total loss of braking capability.” The recall raises troubling questions about Ferrari’s actions prior to the announcement, and the effectiveness of the factory-authorized remedy . . .
Was the Ferrari brake recall of 23,555 vehicles motivated by a class action lawsuit filed on December 12, 2021 by plaintiff Jeffrey Rose “individually and on behalf of others similarly situated”? According to his attorneys, Mr. Rose “twice experienced sudden brake failure, resulting in substantial property and financial loss.”
According to the lawsuit, on June 4, 2021, the brake fluid warning light on Mr. Rose’s pre-owned Ferrari 488 GTB instructed him to “drive to dealer slowly.” Less than ten minutes later, he “pulled into the driveway of his residence at approximately 10 miles per hour in first gear.” The brakes failed. Mr. Rose jumped from his Italian sports car onto his lawn. The Ferrari continued travelling into his ornamental pond.
The car was recovered and sold as salvage. A little over six weeks later, Mr. Rose was driving his pre-owned replacement 488 GTB when the brake fluid light came on. Less than ten minutes after that the brakes failed.
Mr. Rose told the NHTSA that he ended-up “running through a stop sign before I could pull off the road into a parking lot and only stopped the car by rolling into an uphill parking spot and hitting the concrete parking barrier with the tires. I found it was necessary to turn the car off in order to keep it from rolling backwards.”
The lawsuit states that Mr. Rose took his second 488 GTB to a Ferrari tech. The mechanic reported that he “removed trunk assembly, disconnected vac line on booster and used a piece of rubber hose to verify brake fluid has leaked into booster. Opened report with Ferrari. Replaced complete booster and master cylinder. [B]leed brakes and road test car. Brake now operates correctly.” Be that is it may, Mr. Rose had enough.
Mr. Rose launched a class action lawsuit against Ferrari of North America, Ferrari N.V., Ferrari S.P.A., Robert Bosch LLC and Robert Bosch GMBH. The suit alleges that Ferrari “fraudulently, intentionally, negligently and/or recklessly concealed from Plaintiff and members of the Class the Brake Defect in the Class Vehicles.”
In other words, Mr. Rose’s class action lawsuit alleges that Ferrari knowingly concealed a highly dangerous safety defect from consumers. For years.
Defendants have had actual knowledge of the Defect since at least 2015, when a Technical Engineer with Ferrari S.p.A. testified in Hong Kong regarding the efficaciousness and engineering of the braking systems within the Class Vehicles at a criminal trial on the matter of wrongful death following a crash of a 2012 Ferrari 458 Spider.
Defendants knew or should have known of the Defect from far earlier due to pre-production testing, failure mode analysis, and reports to authorized dealers and repair centers. Nevertheless, Defendants chose to omit information about the Brake Defect and not to disclose these problems to Plaintiff and the Class, so that they could continue to profit from the sale and lease of the Class Vehicles.
It was only in October of 2021 that Ferrari decided to conduct a safety recall of the Class Vehicles. Defendants have failed to conduct that recall despite setting December 21, 2021 as the Planned Dealer and Owner Notification Date.Lawsuit filed in United States District Court, District of New Jersey, Newark Division
Mr. Rose’s lawsuit cites more than a dozen posts on ferrarichat.com where owners reported temporary or complete brake failure (mostly regarding the 458 Italia). The issue also hit the net on August 4, 2017, when a Ferrari 488 GTB [allegedly] lost its brakes at Autódromo Fernanda Pires da Silva in Estoril, Cascais, Portugal during an owner’s track day.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its Ferrari-related Part 573 Safety Recall Report on August 5, 2022. Eight months after the Planned Dealer and Owner Notification Date cited in Mr. Rose’s lawsuit. Seven years after a judge disregarded Robert Ebert’s arguments about Ferrari brake failure and sentenced the Deutsche Bank Asia Pacific exec to 21 months in prison for vehicular homicide.
The official Ferrari brake recall is simple enough. They’ve instructed authorized technicians to replace owners’ current brake fluid reservoir cap with a new one, and install software providing an “alternate warning” if brake fluid levels sink to dangerous levels. Car & Driver calls it “a relatively simple remedy.” True that. But how does the new cap prevent catastrophic brake failure?
Brake fluid is hygroscopic – it attracts water. When a Ferrari’s brakes get hot, the brake fluid also gets hot. When brake fluid gets hot enough, water within the fluid turns into vapor. Steam.
All the Ferraris covered by the recall were originally fitted with non-permeable (i.e., solid) brake reservoir caps (as above). The water vapor can’t escape. The entire system becomes over-pressurized, creating a vacuum. The brake fluid is forced out of the system. The brakes fail.
When an owner brings their car to Ferrari for the recall, the technician replaces the solid cap with a cap with a slit (as above). When water within brake fluid turns to vapor, it escapes though the cap. Done! Or not . . .
A Ferrari retrofitted with the new cap, with its brake fluid at the optimal level, also lost its brakes. Ferrari knows this. What we don’t know: did the new cap fail to keep air out, and what else is wrong with their cars’ braking system. The culprit could be a failure of the seals, the master cylinder, the brake booster or ABS system, something else or some combination of factors.
In the Amended Chronology of Defect that Ferrari submitted to the NHTSA, Ferrari states that “Bosch inspected one of the assembly [in June 2021] and was not able to identify the root cause of the failure.” Bosch inspected six more vehicles that suffered from brake failure, and “continue to investigate the issue.”
An independent, limited survey of Ferraris covered by the recall revealed leaking master cylinders (as above) in the majority of cases. The venting brake reservoir cap and software update remains Ferrari’s sole solution to potentially catastrophic brake failure. Without a complete understanding of what else may be wrong with the braking system, it’s difficult to judge the efficacy of the recommended repair.
Mr. Rose’s lawyer are hoping they’ll uncover the full scope of Ferrari’s brake system problems through the discovery process. Meanwhile, their website offers Ferrari owners an “Important Safety Tip.”
Ferrari has advised that if drivers see a low brake fluid warning on their dashboard, that they should pull over as soon as it is safe to do so, contact Ferrari Roadside Assistance and have the vehicle towed to the nearest authorized Ferrari dealer. Brake failures can happen abruptly after a low brake fluid warning comes on. If you do not see a low brake fluid warning, it is safe to drive your car to an authorized dealer for a free recall repair.
Unless it isn’t.
The financial stakes are high for both Ferrari and Ferrari owners. “Had Plaintiff or any other reasonable person known that the Class Vehicles suffered from the Brake Defect,” Mr. Rose’s lawsuit contends, “he would not have purchased a Class Vehicle or would have paid less to do so.”
How much is that worth financially, should the court(s) rule in Mr. Rose’s favor? Whatever it is, multiply it by 23,555. Then add damages and penalties. And the potential cost of repairing and/or replacing major components within the braking system. A decision against Ferrari/Bosch could easily cost the companies hundreds of millions of dollars.
Reading the press release for a previous Ferrari brake recall is revealing. Back in April of this year, Ferrari recalled 2,222 Chinese-based vehicles for a potential fault in their braking system. Announcing the recall, Ferrari issued the following statement.
The safety and wellbeing of our clients is our priority. We operate according to stringent safety and security guidelines to ensure the right systems and procedures are in place at all times.
2 thoughts on “Ferrari – Unsafe at Any Speed?”
Why not issue a “Do Not Drive” notice to all owners? Seems like the 800 pound gorilla is hoping the weight of their reputation will supercede the legal claims and physics
That’s a great question. I can only suppose they figured the reputational damage would be too great.
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