Bill Heard Enterprises is closing its remaining 13 car dealerships. The country’s top selling Chevy dealer group, Heard blames "adverse economic conditions, high gasoline prices and our traditional product mix.” However, Heard has come under significant legal scrutiny in the past few years, leading us to believe that more than market economics were at work in the shutdown. A closer look after the jump. According to Automotive News, Bill Heard Enterprises is facing these charges in Georgia:
The Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs says Bill Heard Enterprises has continued to attempt to deceive consumers since the company and state agency went to court in May 2007. Here are some of the new allegations, filed Aug. 22. • Heard's Town Center dealership in Kennesaw, Ga., lied to third-party lenders about customers' incomes to increase the likelihood that the vehicles would be financed. • Bill Heard's flagship Chevrolet store in Columbus, Ga., forged consumers' signatures on agreements without their knowledge or permission. • Town Center inflated the loaned value of vehicles by telling third-party lenders the vehicles carried extra features and options that they did not — an illegal practice known as "power booking." • In September 2007, Heard subsidiary Tom Jumper Chevrolet sent a direct mail advertisement informing recipients they might receive financing at interest rates as low as 3.9 percent. The ad went only to people with low credit scores who were unlikely to qualify for such terms.
Other legal charges stem from the company’s dealerships using misleading advertisements to warn customers of non-existent recalls, urging them to visit dealers for a voluntary “safety inspection.” Additionally, on August 22nd, GMAC Financial Services discontinued its line of credit to the company citing a “financial matter.” This adversely affected the company’s ability to finance stock on its showroom floors. 2,700 employees will loose their jobs as a result of the closure, though GM is looking at potentially rolling some of the dealerships into other chains nearby. [via DetNews]