Nissan North America's practice of providing millions of dollars in support to select dealers is at the heart of a court case in Florida.
In an appeal filed Feb. 11 in the First District Court of Appeal in Florida, South Motors Infiniti of Palmetto Bay, Fla., south of Miami, said Nissan must offer other Florida dealers the same cash the automaker is giving dealer Bernie Moreno to open an Infiniti point in Coral Gables, Fla.
Anything less violates Florida franchise law, the appeal said.
If the court agrees, it would conflict with Nissan's notion of providing money and help to select dealers and not others. The case could attract attention in other states where Nissan has been aggressively remaking its dealer network.
The appeal seeks to overturn a lower-court ruling by the State of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings that approved Nissan's awarding an open Infiniti point in Coral Gables, Fla., to Moreno.
In that deal, Nissan agreed to give Moreno as much as $4.4 million. Moreno would get $200,000 when the dealership opens and an additional $120,000 per quarter for up to seven years if steadily rising sales goals are achieved, according to a 2014 agreement signed by Moreno and Nissan.
Moreno is also supposed to get $1 million for store improvements. That's about twice the amount Nissan normally provides, according to court documents.
Nissan spokesman David Reuter said the automaker believes it will prevail.
"The courts have already agreed with Nissan in this matter, and we believe our position will be upheld on any appeal," Reuter said in an email to Automotive News.
He declined further comment throughout the appeals process.