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. 

The Flint River.
Sarah Razak / Flickr

The state plans to urge all schools to test for lead in the drinking water, after elevated lead levels showed up in the water in several schools in Flint.

Flint's situation is unique, in that the city switched to using more corrosive water from the Flint River last year.

Fiat Chryler CEO Sergio Marchionne, left, and UAW President Dennis Williams.

Local leaders of the United Auto Workers have voted to approve a new, tentative four-year contract with Fiat Chrysler, after workers overwhelmingly rejected the first version last week.

Many workers were confused about the terms of the rejected contract, especially about the vague language describing a new health care co-op. 

Part of the new line 6B pipeline in central Michigan.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The two oil pipelines that run under the Straits of Mackinac are not unique.

The National Wildlife Federation says there are 5,110 locations across the United States where oil pipelines run through or under navigable waters.

This photo of Microcystis, a kind of cyanobacteria, was taken in Lake Erie in late July of this year.
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio

Michigan officials are taking a victory lap in their efforts to reduce the amount of phosphorus flowing from state farms and other sources into Lake Erie. 

Phosphorus helps those slimy, bright green blooms of toxic cyanobacteria grow.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Enbridge Energy’s Line 5 oil pipeline has lain deep under the water in the choppy Straits of Mackinac for more than 60 years. 

Over the decades, Line 5 has fed billions of barrels of light crude oil and liquefied natural gas into the lower peninsula of Michigan. 

Yet there has never been a drill to test the region’s readiness for a spill from a leak or rupture of the pipe. 

Until now, that is.

screen grab / U.S. House of Representatives

Updated: 4:22 pm

The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to dismiss two criminal charges against General Motors related to its handling of an ignition switch recall - that is, if the automaker forfeits $900 million, and cooperates for three years on an agreement that includes the appointment of an independent monitor.

Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz / wikipedia/creative commons

Michigan will have about 89 new E-15 pumps soon, due to federal grants.

Currently, most gasoline pumps in the state deliver gas with 10% ethanol, a fuel made from corn.  

The federal government is encouraging wider distribution of gas with higher blends of ethanol.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack says GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford have been making vehicles that run on E-15 and higher blends for years.


Alcantara, a small Italian manufacturer, is touting a rare achievement: carbon neutrality, meaning a zero carbon footprint.  

Alcantara is a luxury materials supplier for auto and other industries. Some of its products are used for interiors of luxury automobiles.

Ford Motor Company

It's crunch time for negotiators for the United Auto Workers, and Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors.

Union contracts with the car companies expire next week, on September 14.

Dwight Burdette / creative commons

Washtenaw County is facing up to 70 layoffs in mental health services due to a $4 million budget deficit.

County Commissioner Andy LaBarre is chair of the Ways and Means Committee.

wikipedia/creative commons

The state is seeking bids for pilot projects to divert mentally ill people from jails, as well as get them better treatment while in jail.

The projects will seek to address the needs of mentally ill people at every step – from arrest to after incarceration.

Steven Mays is with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

He says one thing that's needed is better training of police and guards to recognize the signs of mental illness.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Officials with the Michigan Agency for Energy and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality will announce results of the state's initial review of the federal Clean Power Plan on Tuesday.

The plan aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by roughly 30% by the year 2030.

user Explorationofspace / Wikimedia Commons

Customer satisfaction with vehicle purchases slipped in the second quarter of the year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Managing Director David VanAmberg says people are having to take their new cars to the dealer for repairs more often, and that will take a toll on satisfaction.


A Canadian group hoping to break the human-powered land speed record is testing its speed-bike on a General Motors test track on Monday.

The current record is 83.1 miles per hour. 

AeroVelo thinks its new recumbent speed bike can go about 87. 

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse were married in Southfield, Michigan on Saturday, by the same Detroit judge who struck down Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage.

The lawsuit was consolidated with cases from other states, and went before the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry.

DeBoer and Rowse waited to marry until it was legal in their home state. 

The ceremony was by turns awkward, hilarious, and deeply touching. 

Foreclosure sign
Jeff Turner / Michigan Radio

Bank repossessions of Michigan homes in foreclosure were 137% higher in July than the same month a year ago.

Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac says several factors are at play. 

For one, the economy is better - and that means more people are entering the home buying market.

Kyle Mahan / flickr

There's another squabble between an anti-public-union group and the union that represents most of Michigan's teachers. 

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy actively encourages teachers to quit the Michigan Education Association. The group posts videos of teachers giving the reasons why they quit, and advising others to follow their example. 

Chuck Szmurlo / wikipedia/creative commons

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint,  is urging people in Michigan to weigh in during a 90-day public comment period on Canada's plan to build a radioactive waste storage facility near Lake Huron.

Kildee says written letters are best.

"We simply request that you stop this project and locate another facility that is not 6/10 of a mile from the greatest fresh water source on the planet," says Kildee.


Flint knows it has a problem with water leaks.  It just doesn't know how many, or where, the leaks are.

Spokesman Jason Lorenz says the city may be losing up to 30% of its water from leaks.

Nhandler/wikipedia / Jonesy22/creative commons

Oakland County is using a new app that uses facial recognition software to help reunite lost dogs with their owners.

Joanie Toole is chief of the Oakland Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center.

She says people can load a photo of their dog on the app called "Finding Rover."


More than 70% of Michigan school districts used a private contractor for busing, custodial, or food service in 2015, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

James Hohman of the Center says privatizing helps districts trim their payroll. Districts must pay about 25% of payroll into the state's severely underfunded pension plan.
cwazniak / Flickr/creative commons

Unemployment is improving, and gas prices are relatively low. That means more people are on the road, and they're driving more miles.

"During the recession, motor vehicle fatalities dropped by around 10,000," says the National Safety Council's Ken Kolosh. "Now with the economy improving, with gas prices at relatively low levels, we're beginning to see a rebound."

General Motors

A University of Iowa survey finds many people are uncertain how many safety technologies work – even those that have been around for a long time.  

27% haven't heard of traction control, and the same percentage don't recognize the symbol indicating low tire pressure. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is adding another $5 million in grants to help farmers near the Great Lakes plant cover crops.

Colleen Forestieri is with the Van Buren Conservation District.

She says it's one way to keep phosphorus from getting into Lake Erie and feeding the cyanobacteria.
Andrew Jameson / wikimedia/GNU Free Documentation License

Doctors' Hospital in Pontiac has filed for bankruptcy protection a second time.

Now, Oakland County officials fear losing a crucial residency training program that is based at the hospital.

From a Ferguson protest in New York City.
user The All-Nite Images / Flickr

Some Detroiters are taking part in a national day of action on Saturday to protest police brutality, especially against people of color.

Mahogany Dixon says she will be there. Dixon just graduated from high school. She and her friends found out about the event on social media, and they're using social media to encourage others to attend.

The incomplete Wayne County jail.
Wayne County

It will get harder from here.

Wayne County Commissioners have approved a consent agreement with the State of Michigan to deal with the county's fiscal emergency.

Of the 14 commissioners, only one, Jewel Ware, voted no.

The agreement means the county will be able to avoid the appointment of an emergency manager, if it can meet the terms.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley doesn't seem worried about his single-digit position in the polls.

O'Malley is running for the Democratic nomination for president, and is currently running far behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"A person can become very, very famous in our country overnight, once the people of Iowa make their determination," O'Malley told reporters outside the Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor Wednesday night, where he was to attend a private fundraiser. "In fact, President Obama defeated the inevitable front-runner" eight years ago in that very first contest, he noted.

Atlantic Council / Flickr

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump isn't getting a lot of love from politicians in his own party, let alone from Democrats.

But U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, fast gaining a reputation for straight talk herself, had some rare words of praise.

Flickr/creative commons

Updated: 8/12/15, 2:51 pm

I'll admit I thought it was a bit crazy, when I heard that some places in Michigan had pledged to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2016.   

Zero: 2016 is a national campaign that urges communities to reduce veteran homelessness to virtually zero by the end of 2015, and reduce chronic homelessness to virtually zero by the end of 2016. 

Washtenaw, Oakland, and Genessee counties and the city of Detroit joined the campaign in January. 

Washtenaw and Oakland counties are getting close to the goal.