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. 

NHTSA/ibtimes

Recalls of automobiles for safety and other defects are up.

In 2014, automakers recalled a record 63.9 million vehicles in the U.S., more than any year in history. 

That means about 25% of the cars on the road were the subject of at least one recall in 2014.

meddygarnet/Flickr / wikipedia

The average length of a car loan was 48 months a few years ago, according to the auto industry consulting firm AutoPacific.

These days, it's 66 months.

"There are quite a few 96-month loans out there, which is kinda scary to think," says the group's Ed Kim.

Chatfield School

UPDATE: A pro-charter group says the methodology used in the Education Trust-Midwest report is deeply flawed.  A link to The Center for Education Reform's critique is included at the bottom of this article.

When Michigan's charter school experiment began 21 years ago, the hope was charters would be better than traditional public schools.

"The majority of them are actually not delivering on that promise," claims Amber Arellano of Education Trust-Midwest, a Kellogg Foundation-funded non-profit that says it is non-partisan, and "agnostic" on the question of who operates schools.

Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Dan Kildee

Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee says a majority of "reasonable Republicans" would be willing to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security next week.

But on Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner says that's exactly what will happen, if the Senate does not pass a DHS funding bill that can also pass in the House.

Homeland Security will shut down by Friday, February 27th, if a funding bill is not approved.

A number of House Republicans say the funding bill must include provisions to roll back recent presidential orders on immigration, which allow certain people brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the U.S., and defer deportation of their parents.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Shiawassee County officials missed a deadline to get a millage on the May ballot.

So, the county will continue making do without sheriff's road patrols for now.

Hartman Aue is the new chairman of the County Commission.

He says previous commissions "kicked the can down the road," and ignored budget deficits until they got out of control. 

Then, they cut $1.5 million out of the Sheriff's Department budget.

D.H. Parks/Flickr / wikipedia.org

Automakers and their suppliers are growing increasingly worried about a standoff between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The union represents longshoremen at West Coast ports, where tons of retail, agricultural, and auto sector materials are shipped in and out every week.

Paige Pfleger / Michigan Radio

A month after showing the Bolt as a concept at the North American International Auto Show, General Motors has announced it will produce the electric car at its Orion Township plant.

Saunteel Jenkins / LinkedIn

Detroit's City Council is re-interviewing two finalists for an open seat, after failing to reach a super-majority of votes as required by the city's charter.   

A city council seat has been open since November 7, when Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins resigned to take over a non-profit group in Detroit.

wikipedia

Michigan Senator Gary Peters says he supports the President asking Congress to authorize war against a terrorist group.  

But he says the request should have come sooner.

The U.S. has been carrying out a military air campaign against the Islamic State for six months.

Flickr

The City of Fenton is offering residents the use of its police station lobby to finalize Craigslist transactions.

Police Chief Rick Aro says he wants people to have a safe public place to sell or buy items after getting in contact with individuals via websites like Craigslist.

Mlive

Traverse City has become the second city in Michigan to recognize Indigenous People's Day on the same date as Columbus Day.

Angeline Antoine is a member of the group Idle No More Michigan that put the resolution before the Traverse City City Council.

She says Columbus never set foot on American soil -- and he mistreated the natives he came into contact with.

"If we can recognize these truths, then we can open dialogue for reconcialiation and break down the barriers between the native and non-native community," she says.

wikimedia commons

Kent County's Department of Public Works used to accept old-style cathode ray televisions and recycle them at no cost to residents.

That's changed.

Kristen Wieland manages recycling for the county.  She says television manufacturers used to financially support Michigan's television recycling programs, but they've stopped doing it.

So, the county is asking residents to cover half the cost of recycling an old t.v. and hoping for the best.

"When you ask someone to pay for recycling it doesn't always go over well," she says.

General Motors

The U.S. added 7,000 auto manufacturing jobs in January.

More job growth in the sector is likely on the way.

"These are great numbers. And we expect to see further employment increases throughout the year," says Sean McAlinden, an economist with the Center for Automotive Research. "And it's not just in traditional light car and truck manufacturing, but also in the RV and trailer sector. And this reflects obviously a faster-growing economy, and cheaper fuel."

Shoveling in Tecumseh, Michigan.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State Rep. Phil Potvin is from Cadillac, where there's been a lot of snow this year. 

But he says there are a lot of school districts that could use some more wiggle room when it comes to snow days.

His bill would increase the number from six to nine.

Wayne County

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans says the county's deficit is higher than feared, and if nothing is done, the county is on track to add $70 million each year to the $88 million deficit.

But the head of the County Commission, Gary Woronchak, says the county can dig itself out of the hole.

Still, he says there are painful decisions ahead. 

The county's revenues are a third less than needed to pay the bills.  

Brandon C / Flickr

General Motors reports earning $2.8 billion last year, despite issuing a record number of recalls.

GM recalled more than 26 million vehicles in the U.S., and 30 million globally.

GM CEO Mary Barra says the recall crisis was "galvanizing."

"We have built what I believe is the best safety organization in the industry, and we are instilling a zero-defect mindset across the company," she told analysts and investors during a conference call on the fiscal year's financial results.

Ford Motor Company

The new F-150 appears to be a slam dunk for Ford Motor Company.

Ford officials say, based on the strong demand for the pickup in January, the company will hire 1,550 additional workers at its facilities that build the truck.

Ford Motor Company

Between 300 and 500 Ford Motor Company workers will soon be getting a raise - a big raise.

Ford is bumping the workers from the so-called Tier 2 starting wage, now about $19.50 an hour, to the Tier 1 wage of $28.50 an hour.

flickr

Mercury levels are going down in the Great Lakes.

But they're going up in the oceans.

Paul Drevnick, a researcher at the University of Michigan, has a new study showing that mercury levels in a specific species of tuna – yellowfin – are increasing at a rate of 3.8% a year in the Pacific.

Motor Trend

January 31 was the deadline to file a claim related to GM's ignition switch recall, and as the administrators of a special compensation fund expected, there was a last-minute surge in filed claims.

USACE

Calling it a "choke point" that could let invasive carp into the Great Lakes, State Attorney General Bill Schuette is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate, interim steps at the Brandon Road lock on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Illinois.

The Truth About Cars/wikipedia

A law firm says it will file suit against Ford Motor Company because the automaker fired a Christian contract employee for criticizing the company's support of gay employees.

Ford Motor Company says the employee, Thomas Banks, violated its anti-harassment policy.

Banks' law firm, Liberty Institute, says Ford discriminated against Banks for his religious beliefs, in violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Ford Motor Company's earnings last year totaled $3.2 billion, a big drop from 2013, when the company made $6.2 billion.

But Ford executives say much of the decline is due to a record 24 new vehicle launches last year.  

"Certainly we have more costs associated with those product launches," says Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks. "(But) they were going to set us up for a much stronger 2015 and that's exactly where we find ourselves today."

wikipedia

Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg has re-introduced a package of bills intended to restrain the powers of government authorities to seize assets from citizens.

Walberg says too often, police use forfeiture powers as a revenue stream, rather than a crime-fighting tool.

If you follow auto news at all, you know this already.  Ford Motor Company's new F-150 has an aluminum body. 

Aluminum is lighter than steel, so the switch has taken up to 700 pounds off the weight of the pickup, improving the truck's fuel economy as well as the payload and towing capacity.

wikipedia

Michigan agriculture producers say it's time to lift the trade embargo against Cuba.

They say Cuba is an untapped market for Michigan's black beans, fruits, milk and other products.

Dave Armstrong is CEO of GreenStone Farm Credit.

"Foreign competitors like Canada, Brazil, the European Union and Argentina – which don't have such restrictions – are taking U.S. and Michigan market share," says Dave Armstrong, CEO of Greenstone Farm Credit.

Jim Byrum is President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association.

Wikipedia

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with the auto industry to phase out most copper from brake pads by the year 2025.

The agreement follows in the wake of California's adoption of the regulation, which is designed to protect salmon and other fish, along with aquatic plants, from the toxic effects of copper.

Every time a driver hits the brakes, the friction rubs off part of the brake pad. The fine dust of copper and other toxic materials on roadways is flushed into nearby waterways.

GsGeorge / WIKIMEDIA Commons

Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority may start an ambassadors program, similar to the one now in place in Grand Rapids.

City ambassadors can perform a wide range of services – from directing tourists to landmarks, to opening doors for people at large events, to handing out umbrellas to visitors on rainy days.

Susan Pollay is Director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.  She says if such a program starts in Ann Arbor, it would be "multi-faceted."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan State Police say they have been focusing resources on an unusually dangerous stretch of I-94 between Battle Creek and Galesburg for some time.

That was before a massive pileup of more than 190  vehicles on January 9th.

Now, police will bring even more resources to bear on the area.  An enforcement campaign this summer will expand beyond the usual speeding and drunk driving offenses.

"We're also going to incorporate some videotaping of some drivers texting while driving," says Lieutenant Dale Hinds.  "We've had quite a bit of issue with that in that area."

user dgtmedia-simone / wikimedia commons

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne rarely holds a press conference without offering at least one memorable quote.

Actually, let's make that never. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has never given a press conference without making at least one statement that is memorable, or colorful, or shocking, or funny, or all four combined.

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