At least one of Bill Heard Enterprises stores reopened today, apparently under new ownership.
Heards store in Sugar Land, Texas, is under new ownership, said a woman who answered the dealerships phone. The employees of the store do not know the name of their new owner or the new name of the Chevrolet dealership, the woman said.
Other Heard stores are rumored to have interested buyers, but no announcements have been made today.
Bill Heard Enterprises, the worlds top-selling Chevrolet dealership group, announced Wednesday, Sept. 24, that it was closing its 13 stores, including the Sugar Land dealership.
High fuel prices, canceled floorplans 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, a company statement said. However, the conditions necessary to sustain the business through the current challenges were not present.
General Motors may not seek to reopen Chevrolet stores in all the markets of the closed Bill Heard Enterprises stores, GM spokesman Susan Garontakos told Automotive News.
GM is hoping to increase dealership consolidation, possibly closing up to 400 stores in 2008, Mark LaNeve, GM vice president of North America vehicle sales, told Automotive News last week.
We would still look at each (Bill Heard) dealership, case by case, to understand the profitability and throughput at those dealerships and understand whether we need to keep it as an open point or consolidate it with another Chevrolet dealership in that area, Garontakos said.
GMs market research has led the automaker to plan to reopen the Scottsdale store, she said.
That was still a viable point, Garontakos said. Theres always the possibility that we might choose to consolidate that point with another dealership in that area, but right now we know that we need to keep the Chevrolet representation there.
In the end, Bill Heard Enterprises closed because it could not raise operating capital and did not secure floorplan financing, said a source familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Bill Heard Enterprises employed about 2,700 at Chevrolet stores in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas, the company said. One Georgia store also sold Cadillacs and Saabs.
No bankruptcy filing is on record related to the closings.
Heard had a history of legal trouble for alleged misleading advertising. For instance, the Georgia Governors Office of Consumer Affairs was seeking to nail Bill Heard Enterprises with possibly more than $50 million in penalties for deceptive marketing and alleged signature forgery. That suit will fall through if the company declares bankruptcy, said Consumer Affairs spokesman Bill Cloud.
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.
Amy Wilson contributed to this report