Bill Heard spent a lifetime building the largest and most successful group of Chevrolet dealerships in the world. Last week, Mr. Big Volume's empire came tumbling down.
On Wednesday, Sept. 24, Bill Heard Enterprises Inc. closed its 13 remaining dealerships, including the flagship store in Columbus, Ga., that his father had founded nearly 90 years ago.
Hendrick Automotive Group, the 58-store dealership group owned by NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, is in talks to buy some of the closed Bill Heard Enterprises stores.
"If there's a potential opportunity to expand our company, we're always going to be interested in discussing it," Hendrick said in a statement.
Other major dealers are rumored to be potential buyers, but none have confirmed an interest.
The man who called himself "Mr. Big Volume" regularly ranked among the top 10 dealers in the country. With retail sales of 40,781 units last year, Heard's operation ranked 13th on Automotive News' list of the top 125 U.S. dealership groups.
Heard's retail sales averaged 2,913 units per dealership, more than five times the volume of the average Chevy store. But those sales volumes were generated via a mix of hard-sell tactics that got Heard into deep legal trouble with regulators in several states.
In November 2007, General Motors threatened to yank Heard's franchise at a Georgia store over a fake recall notice mailed to 10,000 consumers. That fake recall triggered lawsuits that could result in civil penalties of $50 million or more.