Tracy Samilton

Auto Reporter/Producer

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. Before beginning her journalism career, she spent time working as a legal assistant at various firms in the Ann Arbor area.


10:28 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Car initial quality slips due to increased complexity: JD Power

2014 Hyundai Elantra
Credit Hyundai

The increased complexity of cars is causing an uptick in problems reported in the first 90 days of ownership, according to an annual survey by J.D. Power.

Problems reported by owners in the first 90 days rose 3% for 2014 model year cars over last year. 

The group says that's because of the increased complexity and features in new cars, especially when it comes to voice recognition and Bluetooth syncing. 

The harsh winter also caused some extra problems with paint, engine performance, and heating systems. 

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10:54 am
Tue June 17, 2014

GM recalls 3.16 million cars for another ignition switch problem

General Motors has found another problem with ignition switches in vehicles.

In what's sure to become extra ammunition in Wednesday's Senate committee interrogation of GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, the automaker this week is recalling 3.16 million mostly older model vehicles to replace slotted keys with keys with a hole.

The company says the fix will prevent the cars from inadvertently turning off if there is extra weight on the key ring and the car goes over a bump.

The cars involved in the recall:

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6:12 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

State lawmaker, ACLU want details on new police surveillance device

The Obama administration is telling local police not to disclose details about powerful new surveillance devices they obtained from the federal government.

That's according to the Associated Press.

The devices were developed to monitor enemy cell phone communications on the battlefield. 

Now, the devices, known by the nicknames, "Hailstorm," and "Stingray," are being used as a domestic law enforcement tool.   

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6:12 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Right to Life supports only part of so-called "heartbeat package"

A fetal ultrasound at approximately 7 weeks
Credit Flckr

Legislation in the state House proposed by state Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, would require abortion providers to use ultrasound to detect a fetus's heartbeat – and offer the woman a chance to hear it.

That bill has the support of Right to Life of Michigan.

But the group does not support Hooker's two other bills that make it a crime to perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.

Ultrasound can generally detect a heartbeat at about seven weeks.

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Environment & Science
9:05 pm
Sun June 8, 2014

Michigan to Ontario: No nuclear waste near Lake Huron, PLEASE

Lake Huron
Credit user Brucegirl / wikimedia commons

Some state legislators want the International Joint Commission to become involved in a nuclear waste storage dispute.

A Canadian energy company plans to build a nuclear waste storage facility about a mile from Lake Huron – across from Michigan's thumb area.

Sen.Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, says he hopes Michigan will set an example that other Great Lakes states will follow.

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7:12 pm
Wed June 4, 2014

Proposed EPA rules will add only $7 to average-priced car

A study by Business Forward says it costs the average auto plant more than $1 million to shut down for lack of parts

A new study by Business Forward says electric costs will go up only slightly for auto manufacturers as a result of proposed EPA regulations on utilities.

And those costs pale in comparison to the financial impact from climate change.

Jim Doyle is president of the trade group.   He says storms are a huge expense for auto plants, which have to shut down if a supplier can't ship parts due to weather. 

And climate scientists say global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of major storms.

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2:19 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Once coveted, lifeguard jobs going unfilled

David Hasselhof is not a lifeguard, but he played one on T.V.

Pools and beaches across Michigan are scrambling to find people to work as lifeguards.

Ingham County Parks had to offer its own lifeguard training class this year to get enough lifeguards.

Willis Bennett is the parks director.

"Over the years it's just gotten progressively worse," says Bennett.  "Fifteen, 20 years ago you'd have five applications for every position that you're trying to fill, and now you have one application for every five applications you're trying to fill."

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5:59 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

Michigan in line for some of 1.3 billion in new federal manufacturing dollars

Ford Motor Company's experimental self-driving car
Credit Ford Motor Company

A group of 13 counties organized under the name "Advance Michigan," has won a coveted place on a list of communities to get preference for grants to spur U.S. manufacturing.

Advance Michigan, and 12 other groups in other states, will be given extra consideration by the U.S. Commerce Department for projects to boost manufacturing.

The total funding available - $1.3 billion.

Advance Michigan includes counties with strong ties to auto manufacturing, including Wayne, Oakland, Ingham, Genesee, and Washtenaw.

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6:33 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Hyundai and Kia make greenest cars, according to Union of Concerned Scientists

2014 Hyundai Genesis
Credit Wikipedia

Hyundai and Kia made the greenest cars last year, according to an annual ranking by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The sister Korean companies stole the crown from Honda, which had been No. 1 since 1998.

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3:53 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Groups hope to reduce drownings due to rip currents

The Michigan Sea Grant will distribute more lifesaving equipment on Michigan beaches this summer

Safety advocates hope to reduce drownings caused by rip currents in the Great Lakes this summer - especially at Michigan beaches.

A rip current is a strong river-like flow of water away from shore, that happens when water is pushed up against something like a pier, island, or sandbar.

Swimmers who get caught in one can panic, become exhausted swimming against it, and drown.

Elizabeth LaPorte is with the Michigan Sea Grant.

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Environment & Science
3:49 pm
Wed May 21, 2014

Ann Arbor, Scio residents oppose oil/gas drilling in residential area

A group of residents of Scio Township and Ann Arbor hope to stop an oil well project in a heavily residential area between the two municipalities.

That's even though state law prohibits townships from passing ordinances to ban oil and gas drilling.

Laura Robinson is with Citizens for Oil Free Backyards.

She says this is not just a "NIMBY" movement.

NIMBY stands for "Not In My Backyard."

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Politics & Government
5:28 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Michigan congressman requests moratorium on foreclosures in Detroit

Congressman John Conyers is asking federal housing officials to issue a six-month moratorium on new foreclosures in Detroit.

The moratorium would only apply to home mortgages financed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that were in good standing before the city filed for bankruptcy.

Conyers sent the request to the nation's new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Melvin Watt.

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Environment & Science
5:24 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Global warming threatens Michigan wildlife, says NWF

Polar bears are among the many species facing a risk of extinction due to climate change caused by humans. Humans are also at risk, as rising sea levels threaten coastal regions, and droughts become more severe.
Credit Photo courtesy of Joel Garlich-Miller, USFWS

The National Wildlife Federation says climate change and global warming are threatening a number of Michigan species.

The environmental group says there are clear signs of trouble for native species that need cooler weather to reproduce.

That includes brook trout, lake sturgeon, and moose.

The Federation's Brenda Archambo says it's time to stop treating global warming as a political issue.

"There are, sadly, a number of people who have decision-making authority that continue to refuse to put solutions in place that actually can change the course we are on," Archambo says. "And we are out of time."

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2:52 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

See GM engineers' tests on cars with defective ignition switches

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has posted online the results of additional tests performed by GM engineers on recalled Cobalts, HHRs, Ions, and Solstices.

The cars have defective ignition switches that can turn into the "accessory" or off position if a) there is extra weight on the key ring, and b) the switch is jarred, by the car going over rough terrain, for example.

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Politics & Government
5:26 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Conyers off the primary ballot

Congressman John Conyers has been removed from the August primary ballot.
Credit John Conyers office

Wayne County clerk Cathy Garrett says Congressman John Conyers of Detroit did not collect enough signatures to be placed on the August 5 primary ballot.

Garrett says her office investigated the Democrat's petitions. She says only 592 of the necessary 1000 signatures are valid. Many others were disqualified because the people collecting the signatures were not registered voters.

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5:00 pm
Mon May 12, 2014

Chrysler loses $690 million on one-time charges

Chrysler posted a loss of $690 million in the first quarter of 2014, largely due to one-time costs associated with a stock buyout.

Chrysler and its Italian partner Fiat purchased the 41.5% of the shares of Chrysler held by a union retiree health care trust.

The deal set the stage for the two to merge, forming a new company – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From a purely sales perspective, Chrysler did well in the first quarter. Sales rose 10% from the same period last year, and the automaker's market share rose a full percent.

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6:00 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Hey, scooter: Indian builder coming to Ann Arbor

An Indian manufacturing company is expanding into Michigan.

Mahindra Group will locate  its technical research facility in Troy – and a manufacturing facility in Ann Arbor.

Mahindra's first product in the U.S. will be an electric scooter called the "GenZe."

The scooter is designed for modern urban and campus commuting.  It will get up to 30 miles on a charge, and the battery can be removed and plugged into a regular 110-volt outlet.

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5:44 pm
Fri May 9, 2014

Another day, another couple of big recalls

Two more big recalls today, this time by Ford Motor Company and Chrysler.

Both companies say they are unaware of any injuries or accidents related to the issues.

Chrysler is recalling about 780-thousand newer model minivans for window switches that can overheat and catch fire.

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6:15 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Fiat Chrysler union ready for another 5 years

Sergio Marchionne will outline a strategic plan today.

It's a big day for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The Italian-American company's CEO, Sergio Marchionne,  will outline a strategic plan for the next five years.

The marriage between Chrysler and Fiat surprised many in the auto industry just by surviving.

Now the company is strengthening that union, by exporting its strongest brands around the world.

When Fiat agreed to a kind of corporate shotgun marriage with a fresh-out-of-bankruptcy Chrysler five years ago, a lot of people thought Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne was crazy to do it.

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5:24 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Hear Mark Fields describe the day Ford's dysfunctional culture began to crumble

Credit Tracy Samilton

Telling the truth at Ford Motor Company used to mean you could get fired. Mark Fields tells the story of the day he tested Alan Mulally's insistence on honesty and transparency.

Mark Fields will become Ford's CEO on July 1, replacing Alan Mulally, who was hired in 2006.

The automaker was posting massive losses at the time.

One of Mulally's first moves was to insist that his executives honestly disclose problems at a required weekly meeting, using a red-coded slide for "big problem!"

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