On the lot at the shuttered Bill Heard Chevrolet off the Southwest Freeway in Sugar Land Saturday: a couple of armed security guards, hired by GM to make sure nothing leaves the lot.
Inside the dealership’s main offices it looks as though the entire showroom floor was frozen in time. Deflated balloons hang off of cubicle corners and showroom models. A loan application sits on a desk, unfinished. A framed picture of a family going down a roller coaster at Sea World hangs above an uncleared desk, one of many family photos that indicate the suddenness of the announcement.
If you’re to believe one of the managers of this particular dealership, the employees stayed late into the night helping customers get their plates processed and out the door. Contradicting this is an article from Wednesday in the Houston Chronicle in which the operations manager of Bill Heard Sugar Land, Linda Patterson, claimed they were selling vehicles into the night and would continue to stay in business. But by the next morning it was announced they would be closing, possibly for good.
After the jump: More on Bill Heard’s collapse, plus photos from Jalopnik’s (how’d they get?) behind-the-scenes report!
What made Bill Heard go bye-bye? Jalopnik graciously quotes the company’s statement that
rising fuel prices, a product portfolio of mostly heavy trucks and sport utility vehicles, economic recession, unfavorable local market conditions for vehicle sales, the crisis in the banking and financing sectors, and other factors all combined to create a business environment in which the company simply did not have the resources needed to continue to operate.
Of course, a little background is helpful:
It would be hard to ignore, though, the many consumer issues the now-bankrupt company was been famous for.
For the last few years, Bill Heard’s dealerships generated numerous complaints for questionable business practices such as advertising cars they didn’t have, selling lemons and sending out fake recall notices to attract customers.
There’s also the Houston Better Business Bureau report:
The BBB worked in conjunction with Dateline NBC on an investigation of Bill Heard Chevrolet’s advertising practices. It was alleged on film that this company did not have the cars in stock that they were advertising and that they immediately tried to sell a higher priced vehicle than the one advertised.
- EXCLUSIVE: Inside The Fall Of Bill Heard Chevrolet, The World’s Largest Chevy Dealership [Jalopnik, via Swamplot Inbox]
- The rise and fall of Bill Heard Enterprises [Ledger-Enquirer]
- BBB Reliability Report for Heard, Bill Chevrolet [BBB]
- Bill Heard, Finally Due: Landmark Chevrolet Dealerships Shut Down [Swamplot]