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Buick Customer (dis)Service???


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I received this in e-mail from one of the folks who had her brake system fail. I'm taking out the personal identifiers, since what I'm hoping for is not a bunch of e-mails to her, but some additional support from other people who post here to NOT let Buick do this. They claim, among other things that this isn't their problem because the Reatta is a collector's car! The brake system must be one of the components that is unique to this auto then, I guess. confused.gif<P>-----------------<BR> <BLOCKQUOTE><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><HR>We own a 1990 Reatta convertible with 17,360 miles. We are the original owners. We started having a problem with the brakes, the brake pedal would lock up and I would have to pump the pedal to stop the car.<P> <P>I took the car to the our dealer, Roe Motors, whom we bought it from and they found the ABS unit was completely out. <P>They replaced it with GM Part # 2553570 price $1778.45. the labor was $180.00 plus two quarts of fluid $12.40. the total was $1970.85. <P>I called Buick customer service on 04/28/00 at 12:08 pm and spoke with Chris Navarro. I inquired about other Reatta owners having this problem and if we could get any assistance with the cost of this part. Mr. Navarro gave me the request number to refer to when I called #00229764. <P>He called me back a couple of hours later and stated he had called our dealer service department and there was a chance of a three way split among the solutions. <P>After a few days I called back (05/01/00) and spoke with Kimberly Sell at 4 pm. She stated she would do some research on my request. <P>On 05/02/00 2:10 pm I again called and spoke with John Brown (you never get the same person twice) he tracked down some information and got back to me on 05/03/00 2:45 pm stating Buick was ?unable to offer assistance at this time.? He did not know why but e-mailed Kimberly Sell to call me and tell me why. <P>Ms. Sell called me on 05/04/00 12:52 pm and stated that her supervisor said ?nothing could be done because the car was out of warranty? even though it only had 17,360 miles. He also said the reason the part cost so much was the car was a ? collectors car ? and was rare (give me a break ). I again asked if there was any other complaints and was told no, but our information would remain in there database in case there was campaign. <P>I realize this has been lengthy but after reading the other information in your discussion forum, I felt you needed to know that Buick is aware of this problem. <P>YOU HAVE OUR PERMISSION TO MAKE ANY INQUIRES USING OUR REQUEST NUMBER FROM BUICK.<BR><HR></BLOCKQUOTE><P><BR>I will be writing to Buick again, to chastise them. I will also forward this exchange to NHTSA. I think they are acting in a criminally irresponsible manner.<P>Please join me in pointing Buick to the right decision on this one.

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I wrote a 2nd letter to Buick, reminding them that they never responded to my 1st letter (from 5 weeks ago) and that they ought not to tell people they've never heard of a problem when they have my phone call and letter regarding it.<P>I have now forwarded to them the 23 cases listed on the NHTSA website along with my letter asking NHTSA to open a recall investigation.<P>I'm encouraged by the number of people who have asked for the contact information to get their own letters out to NHTSA and BUICK. I hope the other members and visitors to this board will join me in at least explaining to Buick that they should treat owners better than this. I still think this warrants at least a service advisory (or two) in this braking system. Why can't they at least tell owners what things to have checked and with what frequency?<P>While we await responsible action on Buick's part, perhaps the mechanics on this board could advise the rest of us on what to have inspected/tested, etc.? If there's no reasonable way to check these components, perhaps you could advise us on what to do in order to NEVER experience the brake system failure?

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Don't forget, this same type of ABS system is used in other GM cars. My '89 Olds Touring Sedan for one. Perhaps an effort should be made to find if owners of those cars have had issues?

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mad.gif Okay, here comes the question I've been avoiding asking...<P>Has anyone else thought of taking this brake issue to the press. If Buick/GM and NHTSA are continuously refusing to acknowledge that there is a problem with these vehicles, then I wonder what would happen if someone like Motorweek Magazine, Car & Driver, or Motor Trend got a whiff of what's been going on? For that matter, how about 20/20? Any of the big name publications that also have Cable Network time. If collectively we support and administer to the need of a recall for an apparently known safety problem, perhaps enough publicity can be stirred up to end this once and for all. GM is NOT in the position to handle a major publicity campaign, considering they've just issued a statement of impending job cuts AGAIN!<P>What do you others think? If enough of you agree, I'll talk to Richard Cher (Reporter for one of the East Coast's major Television Networks) and see what we can see. I think it'd be rather interesting to see how GM and the NHTSA responds to THEIR inquiries.<P>------------------<BR>D. L. Mc Crea<BR>DIGItal TECHnologies, LLC<BR>Consultants_1@Yahoo.com
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I think the time for that step may have come, but I would hope we could avoid it. I WAS a loyal Buick customer for the entire duration of my ownership of that vehicle. I LIKED the way I was treated by my chosen dealerships. They worked with me on the cost of several other repairs and I think that's worth some consideration. I hate the fact that they (BUICK corporate) seem to be lying and ignoring the issue now, but again, we've only dealt with Buick Customer Service. As with any "customer service" operation, they are trained to make problems GO AWAY. This may need to go higher in the corporate ladder to ever get any action. I have friends who KNOW the President and CEO of GM if it gets to that as well.<P>I'm hopeful that the people doing the job at NHTSA and Buick CS are going to "do the right thing." I think they need the chance to do it. In my 2nd letter, I told Buick I expect to hear from them by the end of June.<P>That's my humble opinion. If you think there's value in getting a reporter involved now (maybe building the story over a longer peried is a good thing to do), then by all means, I think it is worth the effort. If that reporter thinks there's enough here to pursue it, then it can't hurt.<P>If they need any of my information, please give them my User Name as e-mail.<P>Thanks,<BR>Bob<BR>

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I would assume since this car was limited in production, the "percentage" of all Reatta's made that have this problem could be pretty high (from what I have read here). However Buick and NHTSA may just be looking at the total # of failures....<P>say for example - 500 Reatta's have brake failures - that would be a small number for a Ford Taurus (and possibly not Ford's fault), but it's a huge # for the Reatta. <P>This being said...the percentage of Reatta's that have the problem is what needs to be researched...<P>Does that make sense?

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Ted, I agree. That's NHTSA's call in deciding whether to open a recall investigation. The ABS system itself (TEVES) was apparently very widely used. If it is a problem only in Reattas, then maybe they won't do anything about it because of low production numbers, but that's not supposed to be part of the equation. I think the biggest impediment at the moment is probably political. NHTSA just initiated one of the largest auto recalls in history with GM over a brake issue. This may seem like the wrong time to go after them again on a similar issue. But, again, that's not supposed to part of the equation. Child safety seats, for example, are recalled even if NO CHILD is ever hurt. Engineering judgement (or safety professional judgement) is enough. There have been only a handful of crashes in which the rear latch on Chrysler minivans has popped open during a crash, yet Chrysler had to recall every single van they ever made (between selected model years). There was a safety belt issue not long ago that involved very few cases of failure but every car with those belts (on MOST Japanese models) was recalled.<P>23 incidents is actually pretty high when you consider that it's the brake system and involves total failure.<P>I can't imagine why this isn't a no-brainer for them, but since they are taking their time, I guess there's more to it than I imagined.<BR>

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Try <A HREF="http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/hotline/recallprocess.html" TARGET=_blank>http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/hotline/recallprocess.html</A> <P>for a review of what is involved in the recall process. The bad news is that if the recall order is for cars older than 8 years, the manufacturer DOES NOT have to pay for the repairs (but sometimes they do for customer goodwill). The other bad news is that if you had the repairs done already, you may not get reimbursed for them (up to the manufacturer and their desire to buy your goodwill, again).<P>Note that NHTSA forwards all owner problem reports to the manufacturers on a monthly basis. So, once again, Buick claiming it never heard of brake problems on Reattas is just a lie.<P>You can always sue or try to get the state's attorney to take it on as a case.<BR>

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Up until a few years ago, I worked for over 25 years in a number of auto dealerships and would like to share with you how the manufacturer responds to problems. Once the unit is out of warranty, all tracking of problems end. The auto maker does not require that the dealership report problems to it after a car is OOW (out of warranty). My point, Buick Customer Service has stated that they are unaware of the problem. At the Customer Service level that is most likely true. As a matter of course, the Customer Service division only handle matters of cars that are only a few years old that may still be in warranty either in time or mileage. There are times when an auto company will help an owner if a car is OOW for a year or a few thousand miles, but I have never seen that happen for a car that is more than two years out of warranty. In order to make our case stronger with the NHTSA and Buick, we most prove that all units equipped with this braking system are defective. Are we the only ones having problems? What about the Riveria? Did it not use the same system as our Reatta? How about Cadillac? I had a 90 Eldorodo that appeared to have the same braking system. Frankly, I have never had a problem with the brakes on my Reatta, but everytime I step on the brake I wonder if it is going to stop after reading the problems that some of my fellow Reatta owners have had. In order to make an impact with GM we must prove that all their cars equipped with this brake system have a problem, not just the Reatta. We as an owner group do not have any clout with GM. They don't care anything about us or our Reatta's. To them the Reatta is a car no longer in production, has not been in almost ten years. I bet there are some in the GM organization who have never heard of the Reatta. I know from my connections with automakers for more than a quarter of a century. They do not make cars. They make money. That is their guiding light. The cars are only a means to an end. A number of great cars were thrown out because they made no contribution to the bottom line. Our wonderful little Reatta is a prefect case. Great looking, fun to drive, well built, and comfortable. Did not sell very many so off they went to that dealership in the sky. The same fate awaits the Chevrolet Camero and Ponitac Firebird. After the lease runs out on the plant in Canada in 2002, these great cars will be gone, as least as we know and love them. In recent years sales of these units are down, so they must go to make room for yet more SUV's. Remember what I said about the bottom line!

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Some great comments from people that apparantly know what they are talking about.<P>I don't know how we are going to get some relief from GM or Teves. It would help if the parts were not so expensive or could be purchased rebuilt.<P>We know the GM did use the same system on other vehicles up through '90. I'm sure they change because the new system was cheaper (for them to purchase)<P>I have attempted to contact Teves via fax and phone and get a cold response. If we could discover what other vehicles used this system it would give us (1) another source for the parts, and (2) maybe more vehicles that have similar problems to add to the NHTSA report.<P>One Reatta owner has sent me the replaced system from their car and I have partially disassembled it to try and determine the failure. The problem being, there are no details in the service manual about the "guts" of each unit. <P>If you have (or are having) something replaced and would be willing to send me the defective part, I will continue to attempt to determine the failure mode.<P>If you know of another vehicle(Teves is a German company, and BMW, Mercedes, VW, Porsche might use them)that may have used the system, let me know.<P><BR><P>------------------<BR>Barney Eaton Reatta technical advisor for BCA and keeper of the Reatta database.

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I will try to find out more about this from the NHSTA and auto contacts I have. I really appreciate the perspective offered by Howard and Barney. "The guiding light is money." Well, that can work for us as well, I think, but it is much harder given that the vehicles didn't start showing much of these problems until they were well out of warranty. The idea of going to the press; essentially embarrassing Buick into some sort of action is always a possibility, but one that isn't going to be easy with such a limited production vehicle. We really DO need to research more.<P>Does someone have the model number or name of this particular TEVES system (if that makes sense)? I have a friend who runs a traffic safety organization in D.C. Members of the auto industry sit on her board. She will at least be able to point me to the right kind of people to talk to. There are also international manufacturers associations and traffic safety organizations. Since this is a foreign part, the actual impetus for review need not come from NHTSA if they fail to take action. Certainly we can try to research it through other channels. Those of you who have dealer experience and mechanical experience, is there such a thing as a clearinghouse for information on automobile systems and subassemblies? If so, can one of you make the contact, or let me know via e-mail what questions to ask of whom?<P>Thanks, everyone, for your continued interest in this issue. All I think we really need is service advisories (and a cheaper source of parts). We are all adults and can take responsibility to take care of our own vehicles. If they have a special need in this regard, we'll either ante up or sell them.<P>It'd be nice to have a recall so that ALL owners are notified. But the Federal law won't require much more than that from Buick.<P>One final note: NHTSA routinely issues recalls for items on cars that are out of warranty. They also issue recalls for items that haven't caused a single death and have only appeared as an actual problem in a SMALL minority of vehicles. The portion of NHTSA we are writing to is called Trend Analysis Division. Their job is to detect whether a problem is growing with age or mileage of a model, or is just a constant background percentage of all vehicles made. I don't know if they have been tracking the TEVES ABS, but I did point to that system as the source of our problems and noted that it was used in several other vehicles. If they have the data on where it was used, they can research it. If we can research it, we can provide them with further data to help them make the decision.<P>Good hunting. Let me know if you find anything out or have any other ideas you think I can pursue.<P>Bob<BR>

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Guest dukeofo

I too have this brake problem occasionally. The pedal locks up sometimes... but I've found ways to avoid it although it is scary. I don't drive my car much. It's a 90 also with almost 29K now. <P>I thought I remember awhile back that someone found the problem to be a seal in the hydralic pump?? I notice that it takes a minute or so for the pressure to build up when I first start the car. If I wait, and apply pressure on pedal before I move, it seems to be OK. I also check my brakes often while driving. <P>I would be willing to participate in the research and help out where I can. Seems that investigating a car with the problem would be more beneficial although somewhat risky.<P>Dennis O'Rourke in KC KS<P>------------------<BR>

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Barney Eaton has asked that anyone who has parts replaced in this system please send it to him. If you go forward with trying to get this fixed through a mechanic, please save the parts and see if Barney wants them.<P>

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I drive a '90 and have never had a problem with the breaks. (knock on wood) But if I may offer a quick theory, from what I've read about this issue so far, most of the cars with this problem are ones with very low mileage. Someone read that the cause might be a seal in the hydrolic pump. Well when seals are not often used(as in cars) they dry out and detereorate and that's when the problems occur. This might be due to the fact the cars are not being driven alot. Now ther'es nothing wrong with keeping low milage on your car, but it might be in you best interest to drive it twice around the block every Saturday instead of once. Just a theory... Good luck to all.

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My 90 had 130K miles on it when the total brake failure occurred. I was wondering if this was a high-mileage problem until, quite recently, we started hearing from people with extremely low mileage cars who were also experiencing the problem. It could be there's more than one mechanism at work here. Long use or long disuse could both lead to deterioration. Anyone seen this in a car with "moderate" mileage? Mine was a daily driver but it was kind of on the high end for mileage (at least among Reattas).<P>I think there are some mileage champs out there, however, that haven't had this problem.<P>

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I had an 89 with 151k that I never had a brake problem with....I bought another 89 with 50k on it and started having braking problems at about 55k if this helps

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My '89 has 82,000 miles on it and I am just now experiencing the symptoms. I drive it 2-3 days a week. I don't think there is anything that can be deduced from mileage or frequency of driving, except in the extremes. This problem appears to persist across all types. The key is to be able to spot the failure early and fix ot before it migrates to the other parts of the system.

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SOMETIMES ITS HARD FOR SOMEONE TO TAKE THE TIME TO WRITE TO THE APPROPRIATE PEOPLE. HAS ANYONE THOUGHT OF SENDING A PETITION WITH EVERYONE ON THE SITE HOW HAS EXPERIENCED THE PROBLEM SIGNING IT? OR MAYBE A MASS EMAILING?

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I was thinking of setting up a website where we could all "sign" a petition. What would really happen is that you would register your name and address, along with comments on the situation. I would then submit the "petition" to the NTHSA and Buick.<P>I do feel, however, from working for the Government in the past, that individually written letters carry the most weight. <P>I will, however, set up the petition site if it's really wanted, and those who have put the most time into this issue feel that it would be helpful.<P>Jim.<p>[This message has been edited by wheresjim (edited 06-16-2000).]

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I feel like a website and/or petition would be very helpful. If anyone knows how to get the word out to other GM owners with affected vehicles, I think that would help too (especially with the website idea).<P>Anyway, in order to put pressure on NHTSA from WITHIN the system, we need to keep the letters or complaints flowing. You can do this very easily by going to their website <A HREF="http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov" TARGET=_blank>www.nhtsa.dot.gov</A> and following the links to the customer complaint area. You'll also see the hotline number right there on the page. Call that and a live human being will take your information. That will at least get your complaint in the NHTSA database.<P>Getting a petition together is STILL a good idea. I think going to the press is also going to have to happen, but I gave Buick Customer Service until the end of June to respond. So, I won't be cranking this up a notch until then. That doesn't stop anyone else from doing it. smile.gif<P>

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A very close friend of mine is the sister of GM's new CEO. I'm sure that if I had a concise but comprehensive document (or website or whatever) explaining the brake problems, known frequency and severity, I could get it in front of him. As a recent "victim" I am quite anxious to do this, but I need someone with more history on this board to point me toward (hopefully) existing compilations/documentation.

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E-mail me at bscopatz@kua.net. I can send you all the documentation that exists, so far, on this issue. I wrote letters to Buick Customer Service, NHTSA, and the Continental-Teves company regarding this. You can take the best of whatever you like and put that before the CEO. I was planning to write to GM as my next step. If you give me the guy's name and address, I'll be happy to send the letter to him directly. A personal contact is always better, but this may not be something your relatives and friends want to get involved in. Let me know!<P>

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As of today (June 30) the gloves are off with GM! Our friend above has offered to put previous correspondence and other information in the hands of GM's CEO directly! Timing is everything. I had asked Buick Customer Service for a response by today. They didn't do it, so now their BIG Boss will hear our problems. At the very least, he may wonder why they (Buick) never got back to me and why it had to end up on HIS plate. smile.gif<BR>

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Guest Greg Ross

Gentlemen, (and Ladies)<BR> Are we blessed with a Lawyer amongst this eclectic group of enthusiasts, My layman's logic tells me this may be fodder for a Class Action Suit. From the 23 incidents on record were there damages resulting, were there bodily injuries resulting. If a number of Insurance Companies have paid out substantial Claims moneys they may well be willing partners in such an action.<BR> Several questions come to mind; Why was the brake system changed-Cost? Engineering improvement? Early in-service failures? Anything in this system unique to Reattas?<BR> Discovery Phase after initiation of an action might find those answers. <BR> Auto Makers are corporate animals, descisions are made on the risk and reward logic, there was I recall that infamous case, The Pinto? where the Corporate descision was taken that liability for a calculated number of injuries was less expensive then a vehicle recall/remediation. Have we been religated to the same end? <BR> Another question for the Lawyers, are we as owners potentially negligent for continuing to operate these vehicles with the knowledge that the braking system is prone to total failure should we be involved in an accident where brake system failure was deemed to be the cause? <BR> I live in Canada, we as Canadians are not considered to be as litigious as our American neighbours to the South, your efforts with NHTSA may not directly benifit vehicle owners in Canada unless there is a GM recall as a result of this problem. <BR> <BR><p>[This message has been edited by GM Ross (edited 07-01-2000).]

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Class action suits are a royal pain in the @ss. I've been involved in a couple of them (not as originator, I just "fell into" the class). I'm not ruling out that option, eventually, but it's the sort of thing that should be done very carefully and with some real forethought. For example, if there have been fatalities related to this problem, we may never know it. Even in cases where the driver survived, police officers filling out a crash report are reluctant to say "the brakes failed" on a nice looking late model car. They almost always figure it was driver error (which it almost always is). Consider the problem with a panic stop. Your car goes careening off the road because one wheel locked up. There will be skid mark evidence, but that's only captured if the accident reconstruction team is called to the scene. The normal law enforcement officer just isn't equipped to interpret the signs, and that report becomes a legal document.<P>So, starting now, I think we need a test case. If you, God forbid, experience these problems and are in a wreck, insist on an accident reconstruction team's evaluation. That will give us the evidence we need.<P>There usually is information on fatals from such teams. I can look in the data to see how many Reattas have been involved in fatal crashes and see if any of them have the full treatment of a reconstruction. That way, there would be skid mark measurements.<P>This will take some time. The only place this is ALL captured is at the state level. I suspect we can start with a few states (CA, FL, ???) where Reattas are most plentiful.<P>Thanks for thinking of it. You've given me an excellent idea for followup.<P>

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Have identified a fatal crash involving a Reatta in Florida in 1999. I will try to purchase the traffic homicide investigation (THI) report from the State Patrol. This costs $25 and can't be released if there are criminal charges pending. Otherwise, I should have it in a few weeks. I'm looking for brake related indicators. Will let everyone know. I'm going to canvas other states too, but it'll take some time.<P>Bob<BR>

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Bob -<P>That's some nice work on the Reatta crash in Fl. One question - I'd like to look at the data for Minnesota, so where does one go to get such accident data?<BR>

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As some of you may know I am setting up a site in which you can participate in a petition to the NHTSA regarding the problems with the ABS on this car. <P>I have been looking around and found the <a href="http://allante.org/BB1/">Allante Discussion Group</a>, and there are stories of the exact type of failures we have been experiencing. It makes sense considering the close relation of our cars.<P>I also requested info in accidents involving Brake Failures in Reattas from the California Highway Patrol. No answer yet, but as soon as I hear anything I'll post here.<P>Jim. <P>I just found this, apparently there have been no findings released:<BR> <A HREF="http://www.autonews.com/cgi-bin/gx.cgi/AppLogic+autonews.nab.ShowArchiveArtical?id=191786&type=archive&query=ALLANTE" TARGET=_blank>http://www.autonews.com/cgi-bin/gx.cgi/AppLogic+autonews.n ab.ShowArchiveArtical?id=191786&type=archive&query=ALLANTE</A> <P>[This message has been edited by wheresjim (edited 07-06-2000).]<p>[This message has been edited by wheresjim (edited 07-06-2000).]

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Great detective work Jim! I'm amazed at the response they got from NHTSA, but is exactly the response we are looking for. Similar sets of circumstances and almost identical data.<P>Wouldn't it be terrible if BOTH the Bosch and Teves ABS for the late 80's early 90's were found to be defective? I mean, what a terrible thing to have forced this stuff down the consumers' throats only to have it actually CAUSE crashes.<P>Anyway, one bright spot on the Allante site, there are now rebuilders for the Bosch ABS who will fix the problems for "far less than $1000". If that is the case, there are likely to be rebuilders for Teves system as well, which was, I gather, more common and less complicated.<P>

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I did a little research in the library and I found that the following cars of the same period used the Teves system:<P><a href="http://www.remarq.com/read/13104/q_tGDOedy_dgAAAAA?idx=0&si=group&sg=alt%2Eautos%2Egm&q=abs&srn=FIRST">Pontiac Bonneville</a>, 6000<P>Olds 88, 98, Toronado, Delta 88, Royale, and 98 Regency (note:88 and 98 refer to models, not year)<P>Caddillac Deville, Fleetwood, Eldorado and Seville<P>Of course the Rivera also had the same system. Just thought some of you would find this interesting.<P><BR><p>[This message has been edited by wheresjim (edited 07-07-2000).]

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Jim,<P>I passed your list on to NHTSA along with a request that they please tell us how the decision is made on whether to investigate or not. I have not heard one word from them (even a simple acknowledgement of my packet of material would've been nice). I have a conference at the end of this month which is attended by a lot of NHTSA folks. If I haven't heard back by then, I'll ask for some inside help.<P>Bob

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