Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Edward Lawrence, Reporter
Bill Heard's Las Vegas Car Dealerships Close

Updated: Sep 24, 2008 05:54 PM

One of the largest car dealerships in the nation has become the latest casualty of the economy. Bill Heard Enterprises closed all of its dealerships nationwide Wednesday. That includes two in Las Vegas: Bill Heard Chevrolet and Vista Chevrolet in northwest part of the city.

At noon Wednesday, without warning, the general manager walked on to the showroom floor and told employees to lock up. They were closing.

The general manager would not comment on the situation, but the main office in Atlanta, Georgia released a statement. It says Bill Heard closed all 13 of its dealerships across the nation, putting 2,700 people out of work.

Read a statement from Bill Heard Enterprises

The statement blames Chevrolet for offering mostly heavy trucks and sport utility vehicles which guzzle gas. It goes on to say rising gas prices, the bad economy, and crisis in the banking and financial markets pushed the company to close. However, reports out of Tampa and Arizona say GMAC pulled financing to the dealership.

Former employees say they did not get any severance or pay checks. They were just told to leave.

"You are sitting there working and someone tells you we are closing the doors, wrap everything up. It's a shock," said former fleet manager Cliff Toosley. "We heard rumors they were closing. They closed the Scottsdale store about two weeks ago. They told all of us that we were ok -- everything is fine. They gave us the pep talk."

Obviously, it was not ok. Toosley has a mortgage and says he will try to keep a positive attitude. He called some contacts at other dealerships and has a meeting set up for a new job.

The spokesman for the company says they have not made a decision on what to do with the new cars on the lot.

All of the cars in the service department were towed and delivered back to the customers.

People are still showing up to buy cars and try to get service, but they are being turned away.

Original Story Here

My take on this:

Apparently the downturn in Las Vegas' economy is cutting far deeper than is we have realized! If one drives around and through residential neighborhoods one cannot avoid the browned lawns and "Foreclosure" signs. The amount of empty commercial space, left by failed small businesses, is becoming painfully obvious when visiting any of our multitude of neighborhood strip malls.

It reminds me of the 1981 - 1982 spring in Portland, Oregon when high interest rates and lack of building activity all but brought commerce to a dead halt. Our timber industry was at a standstill, loggers laid off, lumber mills closed and home prices plummeted.

Auto dealers who had survived the 1970s post oil embargo slump in car sales were forced out of business by sheer lack of customers who could, or would, buy a new car with interest rates near 30 percent. Unemployment was rife and commercial space was available, cheap and empty.

Now twenty-six years later we are seeing Las Vegas, Nevada - long thought recession-proof - suffering a similar fate.

Unemployment - historically and recently - in the very low four percentages, now tops six percent and is still gaining as Autumn starts and we head into the Winter doldrums. For those who don't know: the Las Vegas metropolitan area has a population of approximately 1.5 million people and until very recently anyone who wanted a job could find one.

Fortunately the visitors still come. Unfortunately the numbers are down and slipping lower. Passenger traffic at MacLaren Airport is off about ten percent from last years "same-month" figures. Hotel occupancy is down and several large resort construction projects are on "hold" or are cancelled.

Now, the good news: Folks, Las Vegas is open for business and is still a vacation bargain! If you enjoy bright lights, great restaurants, world-class entertainment and maybe a little gaming, some call it gambling, you will find it here and the hotels are offering reduced prices to help you enjoy it all. If you're getting a little too old for another trip to Disneyland, or just want to try something different: Try Las Vegas!

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