He is more than likely mistaken. The display can be misleading on the car, when in "s" mode you are shifting the car (although it will downshift automatically if you are coming to a stop and don't do it yourself) - when in "a" mode (called "d" in post 2004 cars) the car will shift up and down automatically. At any point in time you can choose to make a shift with the paddles or smg actuator and it will change to "s" mode.
"! First rule of Italian driving, that which is in your mirror is not important !"