World’s Largest Chevrolet Dealer Closes, More to Follow

September 26, 2008

Bill Heard Chevrolet Closes

The world’s largest Chevy dealership closed yesterday, citing high gas prices, the U.S. economic slowdown and an inventory heavy on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs as reasons for the closure of Bill Heard Enterprises. The car dealer operated 14 GM dealerships stretching from Florida and Georgia to Texas and Nevada. According to its website, Bill Heard Chevy employed more than 3,500 people; the layoffs will affect 2,700 employees. Bill Heard Enterprises was named in 1993 as one of Forbes 500 largest privately held corporations in the country.

 

According to Autoblog, Bill Heard “didn’t give workers any notice…Managers were told [on Wednesday] at 2 PM that the stores were closing, and the doors are locked today [Thursday]. Customers with vehicles in the service area were told to pick up their cars, fixed or not, and customers arriving to pick up their new cars were given back their trade-ins. What a mess.”

The Detroit News reported that “the difficult sales environment was made worse by the ongoing banking and financial crisis,” and that “GMAC Financial Services last month discontinued credit for new inventory for some of the company’s dealerships.” GM is trying to thin its dealership ranks as the automaker’s U.S. market share declines.

Paul Baker, Executive General Manager at the Closed Plant City, Florida Location of Bill Heard Chevy

In Texas, one of two Houston-area Bill Heard dealerships will remain open. According to Linda Patterson, operations manager for Bill Heard Chevrolet in Sugar Land, that location at 13115 Southwest Freeway will stay in business, while the Heard-owned Landmark Chevrolet dealership at 9111 North Freeway has closed .August sales figures at the two Heard dealerships in the Houston, Texas area dropped by about 25 percent as compared to 2007 figures, according to InfoNation’s TexAuto Facts Report.

The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) estimates that about 400 car dealership — about 2 percent of the U.S. total — will close this year. That’s twice the rate of closings which occur during strong sales years.

According to Automotive News, Bill Heard ranks 13th among U.S. auto dealership groups, with revenue of $2.1 billion in 2007. The family-owned Heard dealership was founded by W. T. Heard, Sr. in Columbus, GA in 1919.

Read more automotive news.

Photo credit: Gwinnett [Georgia] Daily Online and Keri Wiginton / St. Petersburg Times

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