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(Story created: 6/20/07)
A major car dealership may be leaving Antioch and it's due, in large part, to an exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation that exposed questionable business practices.
NewsChannel 5 consumer investigator Jennifer Kraus uncovered the story of Bill Heard Chevrolet.
NewsChannel 5 has confirmed through several sources that Bill Heard is selling the Antioch dealership and getting out of the Nashville market.
The deal is supposed to close by the end of next week, meaning the self-proclaimed World's Largest Chevy dealer will soon be out of business in Middle Tennessee.
Bill Heard was once the king of car dealers in Nashville. By some accounts, the dealership sold close to 1,000 new and used Chevys a month.
"He did business any way he could to sell more cars," says lawyer Barry Weathers. "Any way. It didn't matter. That's what I saw."
But after a NewsChannel 5 investigation exposed the way Bill Heard did business, his business suddenly dropped.
Since the stories aired, source said the number of cars sold there have dwindled to just a handful a month, costing the dealership literally millions of dollars.
"It essentially shut them down," Weather said.
Weathers has taken on Bill Heard on behalf of customers dozens of times, but said it was investigation that finally did the dealership in.
"The whole thing has just gotten more and more ridiculous," said Earl Kieselhorst.
Kieselhorst's story is what started it all after he bought a truck at Bill Heard last summer. He paid cash for it and then woke up two days later to find the truck gone.
"I was like I can't believe it," he said.
It turned out Bill Heard had decided Kieselhorst had gotten too good of a deal and decided to take back the truck and sell it to someone else.
There was Melissa Buck, whose salesman at Bill Heard left a recording on her car's message system that contained an expletive.
And customers such as Gayle Thompson and Pam Knight discovered that their loan applications were altered, with their incomes inflated without their knowledge by Bill Heard employees just so they could qualify for a car loan.
"That's crooked," Thompson said.
Weather adds, "The people you've profiled in your stories have not been isolated incidents."
"No one's stopping it," Kraus asked former manager Mary Herron.
"No," Herron said.
"Corporate is not stopping it," Kraus asked.
"No," Herron said again.
The investigation also featured former managers who talked about the company's philosophy.
"All you're interested in is getting as much money out of them as you physically can," said former manager Glen Radford.
"They really don't care about their customers," Herron said.
While these stories prompted both the state and attorney general to launch their own investigations, some said the sale of Bill Heard is the best thing at least for consumers that could have happened.
"If you all had not ran your stories, they'd probably still be here and they'd probably still be selling more cars," Weathers says.
NewsChannel 5 has learned that the prospective buyer is Mark Schols, who sells Ford, Honda and Hyundai vehicles at three dealerships in Manchester, N.H.
Schols is no stranger though to Nashville. He used to own Performance Ford just off Interstate 40 in West Nashville. And according to the industry insiders contacted by NewsChannel 5, he's got a great reputation.
Sources said Schols plans to keep the Antioch dealership a Chevy dealership and that it will be called AutoFair Chevrolet.
Schols is very familiar with Bill Heard's history and with the investigation, and sources say that he's determined to prove to the community that that's not the way he does business.