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'Heartbeat of America' flatlines in Sylvania

Go to chevrolet.com and search for the dealership closest to the zip code 30467 and you’ll find a listing for the Sylvania dealership on Mims Road.

But call that telephone number and you’ll find it disconnected. And as of this week, go to that address and you’ll find empty space where there used to be cars.

Sylvania has lost its Chevrolet dealership, leaving Sylvania Ford-Mercury as the only new-car dealer in town.

Matt Gay Chevrolet-Olds began serious scaling down last November, concentrating on used cars that cost from $6,000 to $10,000. At the time, owner David Gay said he was going to focus on inexpensive used cars and re-evaluate his business strategy at the first of the year.

Last week his used-car business, TGIF Motors, moved from the dealership location on Mims Road to the intersection of Highway 17 and Highway 301 in Cooperville. The part of the strip center dedicated to cars is empty and up for rent.

Gay could not immediately be reached for comment.

The next-nearest Chevrolet dealership is Franklin Chevrolet Cadillac Pontiac Buick GMC in Statesboro. Franklin Vice President Dan Cook said he’s seen “a lot of business” coming from Screven County since November.

Cook said he thinks the Sylvania franchise probably was terminated at the end of the year.

Franklin, which has sold Chevrolets in Statesboro since 1940, meets all of GM’s criteria to remain open. “We fit all the requirements,” Cook said. “We’re here for the duration.”

GM told dealers recently that it will close more than 2,600 locations by 2010. The company is deciding which dealers to keep based on sales performance, capitalization, potential profitability, size, image and customer satisfaction scores.

Gay said in November that he was having trouble getting GM to reimburse him for warranty work.