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. 

PwC

A survey of global auto manufacturers and suppliers finds a 30% increase in the number of cyber attacks between 2013 and 2014.

Rick Hanna, PwC's global automotive leader, says it's possible that some of the reported increase is simply because the companies are paying more attention, "but it's a growing risk."

About two-thirds of hacking attempts are from employees and former employees.

But an increasing number come from sources such as business partners and so-called hactivists - people who hack sites in order to call attention to vulnerabilities.

General Motors

General Motors shut many of its Flint facilities over the past 30 years.  The devastating effect on the city of Flint was the subject of a famous movie, "Roger and Me," by filmmaker Michael Moore.

But Flint Assembly -- GM's oldest assembly plant in North America -- remains. 

The automaker's $877 million investment ensures the plant will be one of its most important facilities for the foreseeable future. 

CDC

The clock is ticking for parents who waited to get their children vaccinated, or who haven't yet acquired a waiver from vaccines.

A new state policy requires parents to attend an educational session with a county public health nurse to get a vaccine waiver for religious or philosophical reasons. 

In the past, parents could just pick up the waiver at school and fill it out.

The policy is intended to reduce the numbers of children who attend school without being vaccinated against diseases. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Despite having to pay $70 million of a record $105 million civil fine for U.S. recall violations, U.K.-based Fiat Chrysler made $333 million Euro in the second quarter. 

That's about $372 million, and a big jump from the same period a year ago. 

Ford Motor Company

Updated:  9:51 a.m. 7-30-15 This story was updated to reflect Ford's disputing the IIHS finding that the new F-150 is more costly to repair than the old F-150. 

Ford's F-150 pickup truck has been the best selling vehicle in the United States for 28 years — and the best selling truck for 33 years.

And the truck is Ford's most profitable vehicle, according to analysts.

So there were some raised eyebrows when Ford announced it would make the next F-150 with a mostly aluminum body, instead of steel.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Russia is in a recession. China's auto market, the largest in the world, is softening. 

The currency situation in South America is causing no end of headaches for global automakers.

Europe's market has improved, but it's still just coming out of a very deep trough.

wikipedia

Fiat Chrysler will pay a record $105 million fine for multiple recall violations. That's bad enough.

"Fiat Chrysler does not have the deep pockets General Motors has, or Toyota," says Michelle Krebs of Autotrader, referring to two other car companies slapped with large civil penalties for recall violations.  "It certainly will pinch."

General Motors

The Obama Administration says 13 of the nation's largest companies are taking the "American Business Act on Climate Pledge," including General Motors.

Other companies pledging to significantly reduce their carbon emissions are Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart.

NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has slapped Fiat Chrysler with a $105 million civil penalty for multiple violations of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The penalty surpasses the previous record, a $70 million civil fine against Honda last year, over recall violations related to vehicles with defective airbags.

Harsha KR / Flickr/creative commons

It can certainly be risky to keep an older loved one behind the wheel if he or she is no longer driving safely.

It can also be risky to take away the keys. Social isolation and the many ills associated with social isolation can be the result.

Ford Motor Company

The United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Company are officially in talks for their next four-year contract.

This time, the kickoff ceremony was held off Ford and UAW premises, at Cass Tech High School. The site was chosen to highlight Ford and the UAW's team effort to help the Detroit community.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/raidokaldma/12617680335
Raido / Flickr.com

Fiat Chrysler says it has a software remedy available to customers, after two hacking experts took remote control of a Jeep Cherokee using the Internet.

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek used the Jeep's UConnect system to gain access to the moving vehicle, which was being operated by WIRED's Andy Greenberg.

Clement Bucco-Lechat / Wikimedia/creative commons

It's getting harder and harder to find a car that's worth hating.

For 20 years, the J.D. Power APEAL study has scored brands and vehicles on a scale of 1,000 to determine how gratifying they are to own and drive.

Renee Stephens, V.P. of U.S. automotive quality, says two decades ago, it wasn't unusual for some brands and cars to score in the mid 500's.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan celebrates the completion of "MCity" in a grand opening ceremony on Monday.

MCity is a 32-acre autonomous vehicle test track, designed to resemble a real city and suburb, with stoplights, artificial pedestrians that can be launched suddenly in front of a driverless car, and movable buildings.

Atlanta Jeep Ram Dodge

Earlier this year, Fiat and Chrysler cars ranked at the very bottom of  the 2015 Initial Quality Survey by J.D. Power.

That survey rates brands based on how many problems new car owners experienced in the first 90 days of ownership.

Now, turn that survey on its head, and you'll basically have the results of the 2015 Total Quality Index by Strategic Vision.

Fiat Chrysler was the number-one automaker in the survey, with six vehicles that were rated best for total quality:  The Fiat 500, Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Durango, and Ram truck.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

I sure would.

"Mean Tweets" is a popular segment on the Jimmy Kimmel late-night TV show.

Kimmel has convinced famous movie stars and even the president of the United States to read mean tweets about themselves in front of a camera.

Now, John Dingell has a bet with his wife, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, that she can't get 5,000 Twitter followers by Sunday.

But if she does, he'll read mean tweets about himself, Jimmy Kimmel-style, and post the video online.

James Fassinger Stillscenes

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, D-Michigan, has introduced legislation with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to require a study of the health effects of petroleum coke, along with best practices for storage and disposal.

Peters says both Chicago and Detroit have had problems with open piles of pet coke, which is a byproduct of processing heavy tar sands oil.

Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

From the very beginnings of the modern auto industry, working on an assembly line has been physically demanding, and dangerous. 

But ergonomics experts at Ford Motor Company say an assembly line worker today experiences a lot less physical strain and stress – and is a lot less likely to be injured on the job – in part because of advanced ergonomics tools.

At Ford's new virtual ergonomics lab in Dearborn, 23 infrared cameras can capture every movement of an employee wearing special motion-capture markers. 

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company will build the new Lincoln Continental at its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant, which currently builds the Mustang and Fusion.

Ford did not provide details, including whether there would be additional hires. Flat Rock has about 3,100 employees now.

Lincoln is bringing back the Continental name for its new flagship sedan, expected in 2016. 

Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is still wrangling over what to do with the new Wrangler.

The current Wrangler is made in Toledo. 

It could be a victim of its own success.

Fiat Chrysler

Is there trouble in store for Fiat Chrysler come September?

Some analysts believe so, saying the automaker faces the greatest risk of a strike by fed up Tier 2 workers at Chrysler.

Tier 2 workers make roughly half the pay of the higher-seniority Tier 1 workers – while doing the same job.

Tier 2 workers also get a lower level of benefits, and they do not get health insurance upon retirement.

Both union leaders and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne agree that it's unfair.

Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.
Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

Ford is moving production of the Focus and C-Max out of the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne by 2018. 

The automaker isn't saying where the Focus and C-Max will go, but it's likely to be Mexico. 

The industry trend is to build less profitable small cars there because of Mexico's lower labor costs. 

In a statement, Ford says "We actively are pursuing future vehicle alternatives to produce at Michigan Assembly and will discuss this issue with UAW leadership as part of the upcoming negotiations." 

Spectrum Health

It's rarely easy making the transition from the military to a career in the civilian world.

Jamie Hamming knows that.  She was an Army combat medic between 1990 and 1995.  Her tours included stints in Korea and Somalia.

Staff Sgt Brandon Aird 173rd ABCT PAO - Flickr
MarsRover/Wikireporter / Creative Commons

Hundreds of employees at Bates Footwear in Big Rapids, Michigan manufacture shoes and boots for the general public and the military.

But the jobs could be at risk because of a federal rule change.

The change means Bates Footwear can no longer bid on military contracts set aside for small businesses - because Bates Footwear is now considered part of the larger corporation that owns it - Wolverine Worldwide.

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.

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