Bill Heard closing 13 auto dealerships

Phoenix Business Journal - by Atlanta Business Chronicle

Auto dealer Bill Heard Enterprises Inc. will shutter its 13 stores Friday, the Columbus (Georgia) Ledger-Enquirer reports.

It closed a store in Arizona earlier in September and also is looking to sell its Columbus, Ga., Chevrolet dealership, the paper said citing unnamed sources familiar with the negotiations.

The company began in Columbus in 1919, founded by W.T. Heard Sr. It developed into the country’s biggest Chevrolet dealer for years and runs dealerships in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Nevada. But the souring economy brought less demand for new cars and GMAC recently eliminated Bill Heard’s credit for inventory, the paper noted. As Atlanta Business Chronicle reported in July 2007, Bill Heard faced a $50 million deceptive advertising lawsuit and was bombarded with a litany of complaints from consumers in the states where it operated.

According to its Web site, Bill Heard sells "around $2.5 billion" a year and employs more than 3,500.