Posts Tagged ‘automobiles’

Why No Bailout for Bill Heard Chevrolet?

September 28, 2008

  The government’s bailout of the banking industry raises some interesting questions. The biggest one is where does it all end? If we grant 700-billion-dollars to bailout the Wall Street investment banks, and 25-billion-dollars to save American car makers, why shouldn’t we bailout Bill Heard Chevrolet?

  After all, all Mr. Big Volume was doing is the same thing that the mega-banks were doing. As an Atlanta Journal-Constitution story says, “Like the Wall Street investment bankers who grabbed up securities backed by risky subprime home mortgages, Heard apparently staked too much on people who couldn’t pay what they owed.”

  Another interesting question is where does this bailout business end?  And what is the lesson it sends?  Is it that risk is taken out of doing business because the taxpayer will make up the difference when the business fails?

  Don’t be ridiculous, you might say, the government can’t do that for everybody. In that case, is it fair to do it for some and not others, and who decides which ones are insured against failure by the taxpayer?  And that tax payer, by the way, will be our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and their children, because the government will raise the money not by raising taxes now, but by borrowing it from China and other countries willing to take the risk.  The only alternative to that, if taxes are not raised, is for the government to print money. That causes runaway inflation which is another disaster.  

  What a mess.

  Just look at what the successful deregulators have done. They have put us right back where we were in 1929 when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression followed.  As the 60’s anti-war protest song went, “When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?”



Bill Heard Chevrolet Tragedy Hits Home

September 27, 2008

  I was sorry to read in the Ledger-Enquirer that the Carl Gregory deal collapsed over the price of leasing of the Bill Heard Chevrolet lot on Manchester Expressway, which is owned by a third party.  He could have had  Carl Gregory Chevrolet up and running and put more than two hundred people back to work quickly, and was apparently anxious to do just that. 

  The tragedy of this event no doubt hits home for a lot of us with freinds and relatives who had worked at Bill Heard Chevrolet. A good friend of mine – he asked me not to use his name – who is 72 years old, learned last Friday that, after working for Bill Heard for more than 30 years, he didn’t have a job any more. He was given no severance pay.  He said that he had been offered two weeks severance if he signed an exit contract on Friday, September 19, but hesitated after being advised to wait to see if maybe the company would also give him a car. When he went back he was told the money was not available, so he left with no severance at all. He believes that no one got severance pay, unless they got it before Tuesday, September 23rd.

  So now, at 72, he is looking for a job, because he says he can’t afford to retire.  Fortunately, his spirit is still high, with both his and his wife, also my dear friend, still having a sense of humor; and he probably will land a new job soon because he does have a lot of creative talent, and he is not the type to give up.

  According to the paper’s story, other automobile dealerships are looking into buying Bill Heard Chevrolet. Let’s hope it happens soon.

Bill Heard Chevrolet’s Failure is Another Blow for A Victum of Hurrican Ike

September 25, 2008

  A comment about my post on my personal memories about Bill Heard Chevrolet  so graphically and  poignantly illustrates the personal tragidies involved in the failure of a national firm like Bill Heard Chevrolet, that I decided to use it as a post. Not everyone who reads a post reads the comment section.

  It was sent by Thea Shannon of Houston, Texas.

 “As a 14 year employee at the Heard store in Houston TX, I read your blog with a smile. Yes, there were questionable practices, but it was our job in the accounting office to keep the dealership as above-board and legally correct  as possible. There were some fantastic people working here, people that cared about our customers and doing what was right.

” And we were given 20 minute to pack our stuff and get out. Here, 13 days after hurricane Ike, I have no power, no job, aging parents to care for, and a generator drinking $40+ in gas a day. This is not a good time, to say the least. Your blog helped take some of the bitterness off. Thank you for sharing.”

  When I get to feeling sorry for myself for some reason, I have to reflect on how insignificant my complaints are compared to what people like Thea are going through.

Memories about Bill Heard Chevrolet

September 24, 2008

  When I heard about the news about Bill Heard dealerships closing, my mind went into its historical mode.

   Naturally, I thought about and regreted the hardships this will cause the more than two-thousand Bill Heard employees.  I also thought of the advertising dollars that the radio, TV stations and newspapers will lose. Bill Heard dealerships spent a lot of money on advertising. But, at my age, I tend to put things into historical perspective.

  I read in the Ledger-Enquirer that the company started in 1919. That’s a little before my time so I don’t remember any of that, but I do remember when the dealership was called Muscogee Motors and was located along automobile dealership row on 1st Avenue in downtown Columbus. It was on a corner and right next to it was Hardaway Ford, and across the street was Cliff Averette’s Buick and Cadallac dealership. 

  It was always a big deal when the new models would come out; large crowds would show up for the unveiling. The dealerships would paper over their show windows so no one could see the new models until the unveiling event.  The dealers would even do things like having live music to accompany the event.

  It was during the depression and a lot of people did not buy new cars, but it didn’t cost anything to look. My Daddy was a Ford man so that’s what I was. The closest he came to buying a new car after I was born was when he bought a 1939 Ford in 1940.  I didn’t want him to do it because our 1936 model had a radio and the ’39 didn’t.  Turns out he did the right thing to get a later model, because once World War Two started, Detroit stopped making cars and started making trucks and tanks and even airplanes.

  One year, Muscogee Motors showed a short commercial movie on a screen set up on a wall of the dealership. That was before TV so it drew attention. However, it didn’t impress me because I didn’t think it had much of a plot. I was probably ten years old at the time. 

  I did switch to a Chevrolet later in life, buying a 1959 model in either 1960 or 1961, when I was working at WSB Radio in Atlanta. Fins were a big deal that year and that Chevrolet had a “cool” gull wing arrangement on its rear end.  We enjoyed it.

  But, I reverted to Ford when the 1990 Lincoln Towncar came out.  That was some car. We took it to a lot a places including Texas a few times. It was great on the Interstates. I downgraded to a Mercury Grand Marquis, which I now drive. It’s pretty much a Towncar, but about $10 thousand cheaper.

  A lot of comments followed the Ledger-Enquirer story, a lot saying Bill Heard got what he deserved because of his dealership’s selling tactics.  I can only go by my own experience.  I bought my only new model from Bill Heard, a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu. I don’t remember any unpleasantness about the deal, and it was a dependable car that didn’t require a lot of repairs. I drove my family to the 1965 World’s Fair in New York City in it, which was a fun trip.  It got totaled in a wreck after we moved to Columbia, South Carolina. We bought a 1966 Chevy in Columbia to replace it. It was our first air conditioned car. What was the first thing to go out on it and cost me a fortune? You guessed it, the air conditioner. But, get it fixed  I did, because once you have an air conditioned car there is no going back.

  I noticed one person said he was glad he wouldn’t have to hear annoying Bill Heard commercials on the radio any more. I can remember when I came back from WSB in Atlanta in 1961 to work as program manager for WRBL Radio and couldn’t believe those screaming, rapid-firing, loud sounding commercials. Listeners complained about them all the time. Finally, the station mananger got up the courage to ask the company to tone them down a little. The word came back that the spots were effective and the dealership was reluctant to change them, but it would tone them down a little. The station manager said he thought the new ones were not as annoying, but you couldn’t have proved it by me. However, Bill Heard spent a lot of money with the station and you just couldn’t argue with that.

  On a personal level, I have always had a friendly and respectful relationship with Bill Heard, Jr. One of the last things I did as a news anchor before retiring was a transportration series that featured an interview with him.  He was one of Columbus’ business leaders who worked hard for many years to get the city connected to the Interstate highway system.