By on September 1, 2008

Have you heard the news? GM has. Finally. ( The Georgia-based 14-store Bill Heard franchise has generated massive volume despite– or because of– an entire range of deceptive practices. As Automotive News [sub] reports, "With group revenues of $2.13 billion in 2007, Bill Heard Enterprises, of Columbus, Ga., ranks No. 13 on Automotive News' list of the top 125 U.S. dealership groups based on new retail units sold." Yes, well, "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." Not to mention a fake recall notice and all the other "normal" shady sales techniques. While these and other matters work their way through the courts, it seems Billy Boy's screwed GMAC one too many times. GM's captive lender has pulled the plug on Heard's biz. How long before the class action consumer lawyers come knocking on GM's door, wanting to know what The General knew about "Mr. Volume" and when they knew it.  

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21 Comments on “Why Didn’t GM Cut Off Bill Heard?...”

  • avatar

    Allowing such dealers to exist is a major failing for an auto maker. The dealer is the one that the customer sees!

    But the bigger question at this point is this: Can GM afford a lawsuit? Maybe they should see if they could try this one in “The Peoples’ Court.” Is it even still around?

    It might not be a bad idea! After all, everbody makes “some” money in The Peoples’ Court, even the loser of the case. Furthermore, the General could get the midday soap opera crowd on its side, maybe sell an SUV or two sitting on one of those rot lots.

  • avatar

    Thanks to these fine people, GM’s also earned a terrible rep in the Houston area. Granted there are some fast talkin’ Toyota dealers here, but absolutely nobody pulls the shady stunts like Bill Heard.

    Maybe now that the profit margins are thinner than ever, a volume dealer like BH will finally get whats coming to them. One can hope.

  • avatar
    Bill Wade

    My local GM dealer is the primary reason I wouldn’t take a GM car if it was given to me.

    At 3500 miles I took a new Silverado in for an oil change. When I went to pick it up the bill was $165.00. When I inquired why the bill was so high they informed me the mandatory 3500 mile fuel injection and throttle body cleaning was done using Wynn’s products.

    After a very vocal and vitriolic discussion with the service manager in front of a number of customers they voided the entire invoice and sent me on my way.

    This was the final abuse I was willing to take at the hands of GM dealers.

  • avatar

    Unfortunately, I’m sure this dealer is protected by the various franchise laws in the states they deal in. GM will turn a blind eye against a high volume dealer, because they are moving the metal. I really don’t think that GM has much culpability in this, we already know that they have no scruples.

    Yes, the dealer is the first one seen by the customer, but it is actually the dealer that is the customer of the manufacture. Once the car is on the lot, the manufacture doesn’t really give a damn. When GM states that they are making cars that their customers want, they are talking about the dealer network, herein lays the conundrum. The dealers are as myopic as the manufactures.

  • avatar

    I’ve worked in auto dealer advertising for quite some time and these kind of shenanigans have allegedly been going on since the 70’s at Heard stores.

    GM has probably had thousands of complaints re: “Mr. Big Volume” over the years and never did anything due to Heard’s ability to move sick amounts of metal.

    One can only deduce that Heard’s antics finally started costing GMAC some $ and that’s why GMAC suddenly saw the light.

  • avatar

    Perhaps it would look better from a PR standpoint if GMAC went after Heard themselves? I’m sure that wouldn’t open any Pandora’s Boxes.

  • avatar

    I blogged about the Bill Heard dealerships in January 2006 after reading numerous complaints on More internet research suggested that Bill Heard avoided prosecution through generous campaign contributions. In 2005 GM named Bill Heard as one of the top dealerships in the country.

    The fact is that traditional Chevrolet dealers know how to sell more cars than cookies-in-the-lobby, no-haggle, Saturn dealers. Of course, once the buyer realizes he/she has been ripped off, the buyer makes a point of NOT being a repeat customer.

  • avatar

    It’s not just a potential class action lawsuit GM needs to worry about, it’s the feds as well. I would have to think forging signatures and lying on credit forms would have to be a felony. If that is the case, you know the local prosecutors will want to investigate the matter. From your snipet of the article, the illegal activity only happened in Georgia as far as we know. But if it happened at other stores, and he has dealerships in six other states, then the feds will come in and they will come in hard.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    The potential for RICO corruption charges seems very high, but then I’m not a criminal law expert.

    The length and depth of the paper trail visa-vis Bill Heard and his EXCLUSIVE arrangement as an all GM mega-dealer sure invites suspicion. Most of the really big dealer groups represent a large number of manufacturers. Is there any other group of Heard’s size which only fronts for one company?

    I would bet that there are thousands, if not tens of thousands, of customer complaints and lawsuits on the record. Some agressive prosecutor out looking to make a name for him or herself as a defender of the regular person could have a field day with this situation.

  • avatar

    Some aggressive prosecutor out looking to make a name for him or herself as a defender of the regular person could have a field day with this situation.

    Would a former prosecutor do? That guy who used to work for the state of New York might have some time on his hands.

  • avatar

    Bill Wade : When I inquired why the bill was so high they informed me the mandatory 3500 mile fuel injection and throttle body cleaning was done using Wynn’s products.

    My God, that would absolutely send me through the roof.

  • avatar

    Those “power booking” customers should ask Heard for the features that the dealer said they got. It’s all documented.

    Power booking, lying about income, etc. all sound like the types of loan fraud that went on during the housing market boom… some perpetrated by the customers and some by the middle-men, but all of it ignored by overseers who were asleep at the wheel (banks, GMAC, federal government, investment funds, etc).

  • avatar

    We have a ‘Bill Heard’ chevy dealership in Memphis but the only dealer complaints Ive heard(pardon pun)involved the TOYOTA FRANCHISE!!!!!!!!

  • avatar

    The worst stories Ive heard where I live involve the Toyota Store….
    and I sold Honda`s for awhile and they were no boy scouts either!!
    Best customer service from what I have heard and experienced is still at Saturn!

  • avatar

    The other lawsuit from GM was silly but this thing is just toxic. GM must, MUST get these sorts of things under control. Heard is not the only culprits in the country I’m sure, and if they don’t take them out it WILL take GM out.

    Two or three scorched earth type actions, cautorizing the infection will do huge amount of good for the public and hopefully regain lost trust, trust that GM needs to survive. And reducing dealer networks is all to the good since the market is wildly overserved right now.

  • avatar

    This is amusing to me because of a very wrong assumption I made.

    A new Heard Chevy dealership opened here in the Phoenix area and they have been advertising very low prices. Since it was a new dealership and since the prices were so low I thought it might be a GM Company store set up to help the local Chevy dealers unload their inventories:-)

    So this news about Heard has given me a chance to check my assumptions. I enjoy having my thinking shaken up.

    There has to be a better way to sell cars.

  • avatar

    Would you buy a refrigerator if you didn’t know the underlying costs? I don’t think so. If there was a 100 hr mandatory service, at $100 /hr you’d walk.

    This is a common case of “Buyer beware.”

    That’s all. Let the stupid be fleeced.

    Toyota does the same thing. The Tundra can’t tow over 86 deg F. It says so in the owners manual. Does the dealer point his out?


  • avatar

    GM figured out how use a form of the “learned intermediary” in order to push their products on people who couldn’t afford them. In the end GM is probably better off b/c a sale is a sale and it doesn’t get taken away if the repo man visits those buyers.

  • avatar

    As a complete outsider in Australia I thought I’d have a look at

    Jesus Christ…!

    That is the cheesiest, sleaziest low-rent auto website I have ever seen. It looks more like the site of someone trying to get you to buy pictures of arses and boobies than to buy automobiles.

    Seriously who in their right mind would go there and be reassured that this is an honest and trustworthy dealer to do business with?

  • avatar

    I have first hand knowledge of these horse thieves. Bought an 05 Trailblazer in Nov of that year at the Buford (Mall of Georgia) store. One of the worst decisions of my life. I traded it in for a Mazda 3i 10 months later.

  • avatar

    Hey, remember that GM books the car as sold when the dealer takes it. They do not take cars back for any reason unless there is a dealer termination. In this case Heard will be able to return to GM all the new and unsold 2009 model year vehicles. GM will not take any 2008 or older model year cars/trucks or any used vehicles. Based on current dealer inventories, I am guessing Heard has 80% of grounded stock in 2008 model year cars which they or some bank now owns. They can try to sell them to another dealer but unlike used cars, only franchised dealers can sell the new models. This is the real bad news. Bankruptcy is probably next.

    GM does not have all that much control over their dealers. State franchise law is generally on the side of the dealer in franchise disputes and for GM to terminate a dealer for cause takes a lot of legal effort and expense. GM will use allocation and other incentive to keep dealers in line but from time to time, guys like Heard keep rolling along. Never mind that Sonic is facing a big problem with identity theft at their (now closed) Los Angeles Cadillac dealership but an AutoNation Chevy store in El Monte, CA was the star in a “hidden camera” sting that sent several guys to the pokey.

    It’s everywhere, the consumer has to go with the gut feel If it is too good to be true….

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