German transport minister Peter Ramsauer told Welt am Sonntag that authorities needed to forge a firm response to the problem.
“The law is clear,” he said. “Manipulating an odometer is a crime.”
Violators face up to a year in jail, as well as fines – but the transport ministry cited enforcement problems. Once the law against mileage-fixing took effect in 2005, criminals simply started working outside of Germany.
Just across the eastern border in Poland, it costs as little as €100 to have a car’s mileage changed.
Police calculated that consumers who buy pre-owned vehicles with falsified mileage overpay by €3,000 on average. Some rental car agencies, private car sellers and taxi companies have also clocked the odometers on vehicles.
The consumer affairs ministry has reportedly been in talks with motor club ADAC – and the former has recommended that car buyers consult experts before purchasing a used vehicle.
The ADAC has called for carmakers to make odometers more tamper-proof – saying it normally takes just 30 seconds to reset the number.
Meanwhile, police are taking steps to address the problem. Last month, an investigative team for the Munich police department known as “Tacho” confiscated more than 300 cars.
The effort was part of a large-scale raid in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria and Switzerland – which saw more than 150 homes and car shops searched.
Twenty-six people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in mileage-fixing scams. Police said criminal groups buy old leased or rental cars with high mileage abroad, change the odometers reading and then resell the vehicles.
In Dortmund, two men were arrested on suspicion of selling more than 20 vehicles with falsified mileage via the Internet.