Bill Heard to close remaining auto dealerships

BUFORD - Bill Heard Enterprises, the once mega-successful seller of Chevrolet vehicles now marginalized by a sinking economy, has closed its 13 remaining dealerships - including its Buford location - the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The closure of the Columbus-based company affects some 27,000 employees in six states, including Georgia. Last month, GMAC Financial Services discontinued credit for new inventory for some of the company's dealerships, which then stood at 14, the AP said. The company's Scottsdale, Ariz., dealership shut its doors Sept. 12.

In Buford on Wednesday, the entrance to the expansive South Lee Street dealership - lined with cars and SUVs with tiny American flags fastened to windows - was blocked by two black gates. Several calls to the dealership seeking comment were not answered.

In a statement, the company said it lacked the resources to "continue operating in the current business environment," the AP reported. The statement cites forces including soaring fuel prices, an inventory dominated by trucks and SUVs, the economic downturn, unfavorable market conditions and the current banking and financial breakdown.

'The company had worked to develop and implement a strategy and a course of action that would enable it to operate successfully; however, the conditions necessary to sustain the business through the current challenges were not present,' the statement said.

Separately, a commercial real estate Web site - www.GlobeSt.com - reported Wednesday that Bill Heard Enterprises sold a 31-acre parcel at Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 20 in Gwinnett to electronics superstore BrandSmart USA for $15.3 million. A call to Bill Heard Enterprises seeking comment regarding the transaction was not answered.

The company had five dealerships in Georgia and eight in five other states - Alabama, Florida, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas. Metro area dealerships included Atlanta and Kennesaw.

It's been a difficult two months for the company.

In a court filing in Fulton County, the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs sued the company for participating in "deceptive and misleading" practices, allegations the company denied.

The Associated Press contributed to this report