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Autoworker sorry for shoddy work

A man who complained about faulty brakes on his new Buick got an apology, but not the one he expected. It came directly from the autoworker responsible for the mistake.

Rich Richardson, a foreman in the General Motors plant in Flint, Mich., that built Jacobs' 1992 LeSabre, thought he was calling a dealer when he dialed John F. Jacobs' number last week. When he realized he had the car owner on the phone, he decided to go ahead with the call anyway.

"I thought we ought to talk to him. The defect was so important that I thought we ought to tell him we are going to see it never happens again," said Richardson, a 29-year GM veteran.

Richardson had autoworker Mike Wilson, who had installed the brakes, talk to Jacobs.

Jacobs said both men apologized profusely for the mistake.

"I'm just amazed. It appears to be that they're paying attention to quality control," said Jacobs, 48, who traded in a 1985 Toyota van for the Buick.

Wilson said he was glad Jacobs bought an America-made car. "If we can keep a customer for life then I have a job for life, and keeping jobs in this country is very important."

Jacobs, who bought the Buick in December, said the car had 2,500 miles on it when the brakes failed. A mechanic found that a bracket in the left front brake assembly hadn't been properly secured at the factory, allowing the brake fluid to drain away, Jacobs said. The dealer fixed the problem.

Jacobs said Wilson, a 23-year GM veteran, told him he had installed 80,000 front-wheel brake assemblies with just two failures. One was caught before the car left the plant and the other was Jacobs'.

Julie Hamp, a spokeswoman for Buick, said the company encourages dealers to deal promptly with defects, but she had never heard of any Buick Division worker calling a customer directly.

She said she would talk to her bosses about seeing if it can be done again.