NASHVILLE — Ex-Nissan dealer Mike Kahn might well be crowing right now over his breathtaking jury verdict last week against Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.
But he is not.
Despite being awarded more than $256 million in damages for his claim that NMAC acted fraudulently by canceling his dealership financing, leading to the collapse of his California retail group in 2009, Kahn says he does not feel like a winner.
"I still lost," Kahn told Automotive News by phone after his win in an eight-year courtroom battle. "Nissan won, not me. They shut me down. And I'm still out of business.
"The jury agreed that I deserve to be compensated for fraud. But that doesn't give me back the eight years I spent fighting for my reputation and my name."
Last week's jury verdict in Orange County Superior Court in Southern California awarded him $121.9 million in compensatory damages and $134.5 million more in punitive damages from NMAC, which also had sued Kahn for repayment of loans.
NMAC said in a statement that it intends to appeal the verdict, which is still under review by the court.
"We are disappointed with the jury's decision," the statement said. "A prior trial based on similar facts led to a substantial, multi-million-dollar jury verdict and judgment in NMAC's favor. If the jury award stands, we plan to appeal and are confident that justice will ultimately prevail."
The two parties have been fighting over claims in different cases since 2009, when NMAC sued Kahn to reclaim $40 million in loans it had made to his Superior Automotive Group. Superior operated four Nissan stores, two Toyota dealerships and a Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge store in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets. It was NMAC's largest borrower at the time.
He lost all of his stores, putting Superior Automotive out of business.
Kahn countersued in 2010, claiming that NMAC had called in his loans during the worst days of the economic crash — effectively shutting down his company — for being delinquent on 30 to 40 vehicles, even though it had assured him it would continue to provide financing, Kahn claimed.
Kahn's argument that NMAC officials had agreed to overlook his delinquencies to keep him in business was excluded by a judge's decision from an earlier jury trial. Kahn lost but appealed and was granted a retrial.
Last week's verdict came after the seven-week-long retrial.
The trial did not answer why NMAC was motivated to call in all of Superior's loans at the same time in early 2009 — a move that was certain to end his business operations.
Kahn acknowledges that the entire U.S. auto industry was scrambling to conserve cash at the time, as consumers avoided new-vehicle purchases and thousands of dealerships failed. But that does not explain why NMAC would renege on its understanding with Kahn, according to his claim.
"I had a net worth of $100 million at that time," Kahn says. "Where would I be today if none of this had happened? Maybe I could have tripled that by now, as others in the business did.
"But I can't make up that lost time."