Tracy Samilton

Auto Reporter/Producer

Tracy Samilton covers the auto industry, business, and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio.   She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly "bitten by the radio bug," and never recovered.  She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.  Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.   Her coverage of Michigan's Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. 

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Large animal farms will no longer be allowed to give or sell excess manure to smaller farms between the months of January and March.

Brad Wurfel is with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.  He says the larger farms know not to do this, but sometimes the smaller farms will spread the manure on frozen, snow-covered fields. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Researchers say there would be beneficial side effects from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposed Clean Power Plan. 

The plan is intended to lower carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 30% by the year 2030.  CO2 is a large factor in climate change.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

General Motors is planning to invest more than $5 billion in its U.S. facilities over the next three years. 

The money won't mean a huge number of new jobs.  A total of about 650 new positions will be added.

But GM's head of North American Manufacturing Cathy Clegg says it does mean a long-term commitment to jobs already at the facilities.

Consumers Energy / Flickr/user

The fight is on over how to make sure Michigan's electric grid remains reliable.

The state's two largest utilities, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy, will close nine coal-burning electric power plants by next April to comply with regulations on mercury emissions.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan is saying goodbye to nine of its smaller and older coal-burning power plants.

DTE Energy is closing two facilities. Consumers Energy will shutter seven more, which are nicknamed the "Classic Seven." I recently toured one of these aging workhorses of electricity, B.C. Cobb in Muskegon.

JBleeker / Creative Commons

The hybrid honeymoon may be over, at least while gas prices remain low.

Fewer than half of hybrid and electric car owners who traded the vehicles in during the first quarter of 2015 bought another hybrid or electric, according to Jessica Caldwell with Edmunds.com. 

Car accident.
Daniel X. O'Neil / Flickr

Car insurance rates in Michigan are 136% higher than the national average, according to an analysis by Insurance Quotes, a subsidiary of Bankrate.com.

Probably the biggest reason, says Insurance Quote's Laura Adams, is that Michigan is a no-fault state

That means insurance companies have to pay the cost of any car accident a customer is involved in, regardless of which driver is at fault. 

Harvey Henkelmann / wikimedia commons

Updated:  9:45 a.m. April 20, 2015

Crude oil production has skyrocketed in the U.S. in recent years, primarily from the Bakken oil fields, where new technologies have made it possible to access reserves that were previously out of reach.

There aren't enough pipelines to carry all that oil, so trains are doing a lot more of the transporting.

dickelsberg/police patches / wikimedia commons

The Michigan State Police will hold a recruitment day in Troy on Saturday, April 25 to try to boost the number of female applicants for trooper positions.

Only about 10% of Michigan State Police troopers are women.  

Sgt. Michele Sosinski is with the recruiting division at the agency. She says there are many benefits internally to having women serve alongside men.

"And of course, we want to reflect the communities that we're serving, and with half of Michigan being female, we're nowhere near that number."

Jessica Mullen / Flickr.com

Most industries like to reward their most loyal customers.

But a consumer watchdog says more and more auto insurance companies are punishing loyalty, by charging a higher premium for it. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Michigan's experiment with partially deregulating its electricity market could be over.

Bills to rescind the law which allows 10% of DTE Energy and Consumers Energy customers to leave for an alternate (i.e., cheaper) supplier are moving through the State House.

They're sponsored by the Chairman of the Energy Policy Committee, Republican Aric Nesbitt of the 66th District.

John Lloyd/Flickr

Vehicles don't last forever, and old vehicles need extra maintenance.

That's the take-home message from a four-year investigation into brake-line failures on very old GM trucks.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation focused on complaints of brake failures in GM trucks built between 1999 and 2003.

Auburn Elementary

In many undergraduate education programs, students spend a lot of time in the university classroom to prepare them for their student teaching in the final year. 

Until that placement, theory sometimes has little chance to meet up with practice.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The Ohio state Legislature has passed bills to try to cut down on the nutrients flowing into Lake Erie that feed cyanobacteria. 

Cyanobacteria looks like algae, and some forms are toxic. 

A cyanobacteria bloom shut down Toledo's water supply briefly last summer. 

Manure, untreated sewage, sediment, and phosphorus all encourage the growth of cyanobacteria.

The legislation establishes fines against farmers caught applying manure on a frozen field or right before a heavy rain.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

No union member likes the fact that pay for entry-level workers at GM, Ford, and Chrysler is capped at about $19 an hour.

Not the workers themselves, known as "tier two."

Not the higher-paid workers, known as "tier one," like Jeep assembly line worker Samantha Price, who says the system creates inter-personal conflict at her Toledo plant "every day.  Every single day."

pixabay

What if every new car came equipped with a device that would not let a drunk or impaired driver start it?

That's the question researchers at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute asked in a new study. 

flickr

A University of Michigan and VA Ann Arbor hospital study suggests simple measures could reduce multi-drug-resistant infections in nursing homes.

Dr. Lona Mody says there's much at stake for nursing home residents, as well as others.

"Nursing home patients may be transferred back to the hospital for a problem or for an acute illness,  and bring that organism with them to the hospital," says Mody.

Tamar Charney / Michigan Radio

Twelve people died in collisions between cars and trains in Michigan last year. 

That's a big increase from last year, when three people were killed in such collisions.

Sam Crowl is with Michigan Operation Lifesaver, a railroad safety group.

He says one issue may be that some trains now travel as fast as 110 miles per hour.

"It's hard to tell how fast that train's traveling when it's coming right at you," says Crowl. "It will clear the crossing in less than a minute. So there's no reason to try to take a chance to beat the train and get killed."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan State Police is issuing 58 speeding tickets to people involved in a series of massive pileups on I-94 near Battle Creek in January.

The 193-car pileup happened on both sides of I-94 near Battle Creek during a snowstorm on January 9.  

Lt. Dale Hinz says many people were driving too fast for the conditions.

Dimland

Honda is expanding a recall of cars with Takata airbags that have the potential to explode.

Six people have been killed by shrapnel from airbags deploying with excessive force in Honda vehicles.

Other automakers are affected by the issue, but none as much as Honda.

photo by Vincent Duffy

It took a lawsuit, but the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has agreed to reduce a $1,550 bill to $50 to provide documents related to a Freedom of Information Act request.

The documents were requested by Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Emilio Labrador / Flickr

The average car loan was 44 months in 2006. 

Today, it's 66 months - and even longer car loan terms of 72, 84 or 96 months are no longer rare.

Analyst Ed Kim of AutoPacific says one reason is cars have become more expensive, due to "must-have" infotainment systems, and costly technology that improves safety and fuel efficiency.

www.flicr.com

Thirty-eight percent of the main city and county streets and state highways are in poor condition, according to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council - a significant jump  from last year's 33 percent.

The Council sends out 100 teams of drivers every year to assess the condition of Michigan roads. 

The Epoch Times

Honda Motor Company will run newspaper and radio ads as well as Facebook posts to get the word out about a potentially lethal defect in millions of its cars.

Since 2008, Honda has recalled 5 million vehicles with airbags manufactured by Japanese supplier Takata.  The airbags can rupture during deployment, sending shrapnel towards the driver and in some cases the front seat passenger.

Attorney General Bill Schuette
Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he personally apologized to two journalists who were served with subpoenas from his office.

The subpoenas demanded the notes and interviews related to a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse of minors in state prisons.

One of the subpoenas was served on Monday on Cynthia Canty, the host of Michigan's Radio's Stateside program.  She had interviewed the attorney filing the lawsuit, Deborah LaBelle, for her show.  The subpoena sought the raw, unedited interview as well as other materials.

Pixabay

A new report criticizes the expansion of online K-12 schools in Michigan.

Co-author Michael Barbour is with Sacred Heart University.

He says MEAP scores at full-time virtual schools are below the state average, mainly because the schools aren't doing what they promised.

"For as much as we hear in terms of the PR from these companies about personalized or individualized instruction, it is [actually]  a one-size-fits-all model," says Barbour.

FCA

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is dealing with higher than expected demand for its Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Dodge Charger Hellcat.

The company complains that some of its dealers are setting customers up for disappointment, by taking too many orders.

Many dealers will get only one Hellcat delivered a month, which could leave customers waiting months for their Hellcat.

wikipedia

GM will have less cash on its books, after making a deal with an activist investor unhappy with the company's stock performance. 

GM agreed to buy back $5 billion worth of its stock, to appease investors led by Harry Wilson. Wilson was a member of the Auto Task Force in 2009 which took GM through bankruptcy. 

He'd threatened to run for GM's board as a hostile candidate, to try to force GM to make an $8 billion stock buyback. 

wikimedia

Consumers Energy says the winter of "Polar Vortex 2" broke some natural gas records. 

The utility broke its 1994 record for most natural gas delivered to homes and businesses in a 24 hour period. 

That was on February 19 and 20, when temperatures dropped to 20 below zero overnight. 

wikipedia

Emergency rules that allow charities to contract with private companies to hold fundraising poker games expire in July.

State Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says bills he and State Representative Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, introduced would make those rules permanent.

"These are the local Lions, school groups, veterans groups, police and fire groups," says Jones, "and they badly need this charity money."

Charities split the proceeds with the companies that operate the games. 

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