Nissan accused of playing favorites with Florida franchise

By Katelyn Kivel | Apr 4, 2016

TALLAHASSEE – Nissan North America is in hot water over alleged preferential treatment for certain dealerships in possible violation of Florida law.

Nissan is accused of offering dealership owner Bernie Moreno millions of dollars to open a new location in Coral Gables. South Motors Infiniti of Palmetto Bay filed an appeal in Florida's First District Court of Appeals in February demanding Nissan provide the same incentives to other dealers in Florida.

“Nissan is offering incentives to get the dealer to come (to) Coral Gables that it’s not offering to any other dealers,”  John Forehand told the Florida Record. “That’s prohibited by Florida law.” 

Forehand is an attorney for LCA Acquisitions, which does business with South Motors.

Nissan’s deal with Moreno, which was approved by the State of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, offered the dealer as much as $4.4 million - $200,000 when the Coral Gables dealership opens and an additional $120,000 quarterly for seven years as long as rising sales goals are met. The appeal would require this offer to be extended to other dealers as well.

A similar lawsuit was filed in Ohio, where four Cleveland-area dealerships have taken Nissan’s apparent favoritism of Moreno to federal court.

A second point in the South Motors appeal is that Nissan should not be allowed to add a new point of sale at all at the present time. According to Forehand, Nissan has not completed a review of the market impact of a three-year-old decision to relocate the Warren Henry Infiniti dealership from Miami to a southern suburb.

Both the incentives and failure to assess market impacts violate state franchise law, the appeal alleges.

“They normally take three or four months, so (the case will be heard) in the summer,” Forehand said.

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