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DATE News (chronologically)
09/24/08
automotive
One of the nation's largest car dealerships to shut it doors  One of the nation's largest car dealerships has closed sales operations, possibly forever.

Bill Heard Enterprises Inc., which operates the Bill Heard Chevrolet dealership in Plant City, closed its sales operation there this week, said Paul Baker, executive manager of the dealership.

"It's a shame," Baker said, adding that he thought the era of gigantic dealerships is over. The dealership traces its roots to 1919, just 11 years after Henry Ford first produced the Model T automobile.

Baker declined to elaborate on reasons for the closing, other than to cite financial pressures. He said he doubted the operation would operate under new ownership. "Nobody has the guts to have a big dealership anymore," he said.

The dealership will "take care of any customer's car and live up to any obligations we have as far as sales," he said, "but we closed the sales operation."

Based in Columbus, Ga., Bill Heard Enterprises Inc. operates 13 dealerships nationwide. They all will close, Baker said.

Should GM have jettisoned Bill Heard Years Ago?

The Georgia-based 14-store Bill Heard franchise has generated massive volume despite– or because of– an entire range of deceptive practices. As Automotive News [sub] reports, "With group revenues of $2.13 billion in 2007, Bill Heard Enterprises, of Columbus, Ga., ranks No. 13 on Automotive News' list of the top 125 U.S. dealership groups based on new retail units sold."

Yes, well, "Heard's Town Center dealership in Kennesaw, Ga., lied to third-party lenders about customers' incomes to increase the likelihood that the vehicles would be financed. Bill Heard's flagship Chevrolet store in Columbus, Ga., forged consumers' signatures on agreements without their knowledge or permission.

Town Center inflated the loaned value of vehicles by telling third-party lenders the vehicles carried extra features and options that they did not — an illegal practice known as "power booking."

In September 2007, Heard subsidiary Tom Jumper Chevrolet sent a direct mail advertisement informing recipients they might receive financing at interest rates as low as 3.9 percent. The ad went only to people with low credit scores who were unlikely to qualify for such terms." Not to mention a fake recall notice and all the other "normal" shady sales techniques.

While these and other matters work their way through the courts, it seems Billy Boy's screwed GMAC one too many times. GM's captive lender has pulled the plug on Heard's biz. How long before the class action consumer lawyers come knocking on GM's door, wanting to know what The General knew about "Mr. Volume" and when they knew it. 

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