Bill Heard Enterprises closes its doors

Chrissie Thompson
Automotive News
September 24, 2008 - 3:05 pm ET

Bill Heard Enterprises Inc., the world's top-selling Chevrolet dealership group, is closing the doors at its 13 storestoday, the company said in a statement.

The company notified the stores' general managers at 2 p.m. today, said a source familiar with the situation who spoke anonymously.

High fuel prices, canceled floorplanning from GMAC Financial Services, a reliance on sales of pickups and SUVs, a soft national economy and struggles in local markets had troubled the company, which on Sept. 12 closed its store in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"The company had worked to develop and implement a strategy and a course of action that would enable it to operate successfully," the company statement said. "However, the conditions necessary to sustain the business through the current challenges were not present."

In the end, Bill Heard Enterprises could not raise operating capital and did not secure floorplan financing, the source said.

The closing affects about 2,700 employees at stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas, the company said.

Company officials have discussed closing the dealership group since Friday, Sept. 19, the source said.

Stores in Georgia and Memphis, Tenn., closed their doors earlier today, said Bill Cloud, a spokesman from the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs.

"The gates are up," Cloud said. "People are being called from the service (departments) and told to pick up their cars. I have heard that people have gone to the dealership to pick up their new cars and have been given the keys to their trade-ins."

No Bill Heard Enterprises entry is on any bankruptcy log for Alabama or Georgia, Cloud said. His office was seeking to charge Bill Heard Enterprises with more than $50 million in penalties for deceptive marketing and alleged signature forgery, but that suit will fall through if the company declares bankruptcy, he said.

Bill Heard Enterprises, of Columbus, Ga., ranks No. 13 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 U.S. dealership groups, with 2007 group revenue of $2.13 billion.