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. 

Flickr user St Stev / Flickr

Pity the lowly wood pallet. Nobody thinks about it. But it does so much work.

Most merchandise in supermarkets and big box stores is shipped on wood pallets. There are roughly two billion wood pallets circulating in the U.S.

Image from the Collections of The Henry Ford

Updated: 8:16 pm 6/28/15

The attorney representing a software firm suing Ford Motor Company is taking the complaint on the road, complete with gimmicks to get media attention.

Lanny Davis will hold a press conference in Detroit next month in front of a fake wall with a hole punched in it, to represent his claim that Ford breached a firewall intended to protect Versata's intellectual property.

A supercharger station in Monterey, California. Tesla is bringing two more supercharging stations to Michigan.
Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Michigan will have two new battery supercharging stations by the end of the summer courtesy of Tesla Motors.

Tesla's Model S electric car gets up to 300 miles on a single charge. It normally takes several hours to charge the car. But a "supercharger"shortens the charging time to 20 to 30 minutes, according to Tesla spokeswoman Alexia Georgeson. 

When Kia first began selling its cars in the U.S. in 1995, they sold mainly because they were cheap. Quality and reliability? Not exactly a Kia car's forte'.

That has changed, if this year's J.D. Power Initial Quality Study is any indication. Kia owners reported fewer problems in the first 90 days of ownership than any other brand, save No. 1 Porsche.

In another flip-flop, many Japanese brands fell below the industry average for the first time since J.D. Power began tracking initial quality 29 years ago.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Updated:  10:23 am 6-17-15

Tesla's foray into advanced battery manufacturing in the U.S. is apparently no threat to advanced battery manufacturer LG Chem of Korea.

Tesla, with the help of partner Panasonic, is building a massive lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Nevada.

wikipedia / public domain

Ford Motor Company will return to Le Mans racing after a hiatus of 46 years.

The Dearborn automaker will enter a racing version of its new GT Supercar in the grueling endurance race.

"This vehicle, really from the very beginning, was born to race," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford at a press conference held on the grounds of the famous circuit in France. 

Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, said watching the 1966 Le Mans - when Ford cars placed first, second and third - was one of the most exciting memories he has from childhood.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
Dave Pinter / flickr

General Motors CEO Mary Barra confirmed she received an email from Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggesting that the two companies merge.

She says the email was vetted by her executive team and GM's Board of Directors.

And the answer to the suggestion was "no."

Marchionne says the global auto industry needs to consolidate to realize better economies of scale, but Barra says GM is doing just fine on its own in that regard.

Kenneth Spencer / Flickr http://ow.ly/NWGyK

DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have energy efficiency programs for just about everyone.

Individuals can apply for free energy audits that include the installation of energy-saving light bulbs.

Most small businesses can use the programs to offset the cost of installing more efficient lighting systems.  Manufacturers have access to the programs, too.

Federal regulators will require trucks and buses to have electronic stability control.
user Nic Redhead / Flickr/creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

If you have a relatively new car, you have an important safety feature called electronic stability control in it.  But that big bus or heavy truck next to you on the road?  It probably doesn't. 

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized a rule that will change that.

Amanda Mills, USCDCP / Public domain

More than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2013.

And a large number of those accidents involve  drivers who had never been stopped for driving under the influence before.

New technologies are being developed that have the potential to eliminate many of those accidents, if widely adopted. One version uses touch sensors on the wheel. Another analyzes the air in the cabin.

Tracy Samilton

It's the way of politics.

GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz delivered a well-received speech before a packed crowd at the Livingston County GOP Lincoln Dinner in Howell, Michigan on Wednesday.

But most people will only hear about the joke he made at Joe Biden's expense. 

Washtenaw County Clerk

Washtenaw County says its new county identification card will help a lot of people, like homeless, transgender, and undocumented residents.

But it's available to everyone, and one of its main champions, Yousef Rabhi, Vice Chairman of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, says he plans to get one.

Wikimedia/creative commons

There will be something missing from the state's 80 county fairs and 4-H exhibitions this year.

Michigan's State Veterinarian, James Averill, has banned showings of chickens and other birds as a precaution, in response to the  epidemic of avian flu that's caused the deaths of tens of millions of birds in other states like Iowa.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A House committee will take up bills tomorrow that pay for roads partly with funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Doug Rothwell of Business Leaders for Michigan says the legislature should look elsewhere for the money.

media.ford.com

The economy in China may be slowing, but Ford says its plans for future sales increases are still on track.

Ford of China head Dave Schock says the days of "frantic" double-digit GDP growth are likely over. But he says the government plans to transition the economy to a 7% rate of growth, which means plenty of opportunities to increase car sales. 

Ford is pinning its hopes on so-called Tier 3 through Tier 6 cities in China. Those are small to mid-sized cities (a small city in China can still have several million residents.) 

GM hopes the Chevy Bolt will make long range electric cars affordable.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Electric cars can't compete on price or range with gas-burning cars, yet. But they're getting closer, according to a new study from Lux Research, because of the work being done by advanced battery manufacturers.

Analyst Cosmin Laslau says advanced lithium ion batteries could hit a price target of $172 per kilowatt hour by the year 2025. That's a 35% reduction from the current price.

BNU Free Documentation License
Rsheram / Wikipedia

The Michigan Supreme Court says ignition interlocks are helping to keep convicted drunk drivers from repeating the offense of driving while intoxicated.

Michigan has 41 specialized DWI/sobriety courts, which aim to help drunk drivers stay sober, stay out of jail, and stay in their jobs, because they can still drive to work.

CDC

It doesn't matter where you live in the United States; the leading cause of death is heart disease, followed closely by cancer.

But there are more than 113 causes of death listed in the The International Classification of Diseases, and any one of those can end up on someone's death certificate. 

That means there are a lot of state-by-state distinctions hidden in the bigger numbers.

www.flazingo.com / www.flazingo.com/creative commons

An annual study says suppliers have a poor relationship with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Nissan, mainly because those automakers were adversarial in their dealings with them.

John Henke of Planning Perspectives says the results of his annual OEM-Supplier Relations Study was disappointing and surprising, because in recent years, GM and Chrysler had been making improvements with supplier relations.

General Motors

Last year, GM's Warren Technical Center was designated a National Historic Landmark.

That was the good thing that happened.

But a bad thing happened that same year. Many buildings and infrastructure on the sprawling campus were damaged by severe flooding.

Pixabay

A fair housing group is suing the owner of several apartment complexes for refusing to rent one-bedroom apartments to testers who said they had a child. 

Pam Kisch is head of the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan.

She says this particular kind of discrimination is pretty common, even though it's been illegal since 1988.

KitAy/Flickr / Wikipedia Creative Commons license

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 31.5% of people with student loan debt in the U.S. are at least a month behind in their payments.

And according to another Federal Reserve Bank (New York), 17% of those people are in default.

It's also not a problem just for young people.  Two-thirds of student loan debt is now owed by people over the age of 30.

Tesla

Tesla will acquire Riviera Tool in Cascade Township, renaming the company "Tesla Tool and Die Factory."

The Silicon Valley-based auto and battery manufacturing company has used Riviera as a supplier before, but the acquisition means Tesla will become the factory's only customer.

Michigan Radio

There's a big, untapped market in emerging countries for services and products made by Michigan companies.

That's the message of OPIC, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.  OPIC steps in where private banks are loathe to tread, offering market-rate loans to small and medium-sized businesses that want to expand into emerging markets overseas.

farming equiptment
Helen Hanley / creative commons

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is teaming up with three states –  Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana –  and 40 groups to jointly tackle cyanobacteria, that scourge of Lake Erie that briefly shut down Toledo's water supply last summer.

Cyanobacteria thrives on phosphorus and other nutrients in runoff from farms. The hope is to deprive cyanobacteria of some of the food it needs to reproduce in massive quantities.

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.

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