CHENOA — Heller Chevrolet in Chenoa will close on or about April 1, its owners said Thursday, making it at least the third Central Illinois dealership to shut its doors in the past year amid tough times for the auto industry.

Heller Ford in El Paso and Heller Motors in Pontiac (Lincoln, Mercury, Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge) will remain open, Heller Stores President Dan Heller said in a statement. The Chenoa employees will be given positions at the El Paso and Pontiac locations.

Heller said the decision to close the Chenoa store was “based upon a vision for their existing dealerships and plans for the future.”

“Our first concerns are to our customers and employees. We want to thank all of our customers for their loyalty over the last 12 years in Chenoa, and for their continued support of our organization,” the statement said.

U.S. auto sales plunged to a 26-year low in 2009 as the recession took hold, and General Motors and Chrysler went bankrupt. The statement did not address whether  GM’s reorganization plan — which initially called for closing 2,000 dealersships — played a part in closing the Chenoa operation. Chevrolet is a GM brand.

The Heller family could not be reached for additional comment.

Earlier this month, GM said it would reinstate 661 dealerships it sought to drop from its sales network, with more than half of those seeking to stay with the automaker.

Last summer, Rebbec Pontiac Buick in Normal closed as a result of GM’s restructuring. In December, Saturn of Bloomington-Normal in north Normal closed after GM’s unsuccessful attempt to sell off the Saturn brand.

The Chenoa dealership, located at U.S. 24 near Interstate 55, joined the Heller family in 1998. Together, all three dealerships, known as the Heller Stores, employ about 150 people, according to the company’s Web site.

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