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. 

(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. 

wikipedia/National Park Service

The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. highways last year is expected to remain largely unchanged from 2013, based on preliminary data.

But a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association says Michigan's pedestrian deaths rose significantly.

In the first six months of 2013, 47 pedestrians lost their lives on a Michigan road.  That number was 66 for the same time period in 2014.

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.

Congressman Dan Kildee
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.

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