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. 

This summer, Automotive News got ahold of a document that Ford Motor Company sent to a number of outside agencies, in which the company outlined its plans for the Lincoln brand - including a name change to "Lincoln Motor Co."

That's the original name of the company which was acquired by Ford in 1922.

I called a Lincoln spokesman to try to confirm the name change, but was told firmly, "there is no name change right now."  I got the distinct impression he wasn't very happy about my question.

www.geograph.org

Experts agree that the best way to reduce traffic fatalities involving motorcyclists is mandatory helmet laws.

But only nineteen states have such laws, and the number is smaller than it used to be, as several states in recent years repealed their mandatory helmet laws, including Michigan.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says barring that most effective strategy, Congress should consider letting states use their federal motorcycle safety grants for more things.

City of Pontiac

The mayor of Pontiac tells Bloomberg News he thinks the city is on the "cutting edge" of strategies to help struggling cities survive, by turning to regionalization of essential services. Leon Jukowski says that's why he's cooperating with an emergency financial manager who has been given the authority he used to have.  Watch the video here.

It's not every day that researchers learn something completely new about how the human body works.

To be sure, researchers already knew that human beings have a unique kind of sweat gland, not found in any other animal.

But they didn't know everything those sweat glands do.

Laure Rittié of the University of Michigan says it was assumed that our hair follicles create new skin cells to heal wounds - because that's how rodents and pigs do it.

The L.A. Auto Show begins this Wednesday. The big car show on the West Coast is increasingly important to carmakers based in Detroit.

GM, Ford and Chrysler have long struggled to sell their cars on the West Coast.   You'll find a lot of Toyotas, a lot of German luxury cars, and a lot of Lexuses; not so many Chevys, Fords and Jeeps.  

Analyst Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.com says domestic car companies are making progress.

At the very least, fewer people on the West Coast give "poor quality" as the reason they don't drive a domestic brand.   Instead, it's image.

"You know, if you live in a wealthy area in L.A., you just simply won't consider a domestic car because you won't fit in," said Toprak.

Toprak says the LA Auto Show is an important venue for Detroit car companies to reach a lot of people and try to change their minds about buying an American brand.

General Motors was a deeply troubled company in 2008.

Eh.  Make that deeply, deeply, deeply troubled.

So was its finance arm, GMAC, which had plunged head-first into subprime mortgage lending, in addition to automotive lending.  That left the company awash in billions of dollars worth of bad mortgages.

The federal government had to figure out a way to bail out both companies - because GM wouldn't survive if it didn't have a place to send customers for car loans, and if its dealers didn't have a place to get financing to buy the inventory.

Chrysler

Consumer Reports says it won't put three Detroit cars on its influential "recommended" list - the Dodge Dart, a compact car from Chrysler, the Lincoln MKS, Ford's refreshed luxury sedan , and the Cadillac XTS.

Consumer Reports:  Dart "stalls out on its powertrains."

This is especially bad news for Chrysler, according to Mark Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press.

Sean McEntee / Flickr

Automakers and their suppliers are racing to develop technologies to meet strict new CAFE standards.

The rules will require companies to reach a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon, roughly, by 2017, and an eye-popping 54.5 (roughly) miles per gallon, by 2025.

But despite all the stories you've heard about electric cars powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries, chances are, you won't be owning one by 2017 - and probably not by 2025, either.

Electric cars will be just too impractical and expensive for most people in the near future.

Not your grandfather's ICE

Instead, if you buy a new car in the next five years, it's more likely to be powered by that old standby - the internal combustion engine (ICE).

This summer, I reported on Ford Motor Company's new three-cylinder eco-boost engine.

Ford has already put this engine into the Focus in Europe, and I was the first  reporter to drive that car on American highways, rather than a small test track.  

Ford Motor Company is getting back into the minivan segment.

Except, Ford is adamantly refusing to call its Transit Connect Wagon a "minivan."

Instead, the company says the seven passenger van is a "people-mover." 

The company believes the wagon will appeal to young families, most likely people who grew up in the back of a minivan themselves and are looking for something different.

Ford says the wagon boasts better fuel economy than the Toyota Sienna minivan.

Ford has been questioned, frequently, for its decision to leave the minivan market years ago. 

user H.L.I.T. / Flickr

Road fatalities plunged an unprecedented 26% between 2005 and 2011.

Now, to be sure, driving was still the most dangerous thing that most of us did during that time.  

In 2011, 32,310 people lost their lives in a traffic accident.

But put in context, that number is astonishingly low. 

The last time fewer people died on U.S. roadways was in 1949 - and that was with 83% fewer vehicles on the road.

But there are signs of trouble ahead.

Ford Motor Company

Vehicles made by Ford Motor Company dropped to next to last in Consumer Reports' latest reliability survey - in large part, due to problems with the company's MyFordTouch communication system.

But the company has no plans to drop the system.

Consumer Reports is a harsh critic of the company's decision to almost completely abandon traditional dials, buttons and knobs to control many basic functions like heat, air conditioning, and radio. 

Voters in the 11th Congressional District in Michigan will send a Democratic UAW activist to Congress for the lame duck session in November and December -- and a Republican Tea Party activist to Congress for the full term starting in January.

Here's how it happened.  (The "why" may never be satisfactorily answered.)

Thaddeus McCotter is the five-term Republican Congressman who until July represented the strongly Republican-leaning 11th Congressional District. 

Ford Motor Company

At least for now, Ford Motor Company has put to rest months - no, make that years - of intense media speculation about when its CEO Alan Mulally will leave the company.

Ford says the 67-year old executive, widely credited with saving the company, will NOT be leaving his position until at least the end of 2014.

Mulally, a 37-year veteran of Boeing, took the helm of Ford in 2006, as the struggling Detroit automaker faced the prospect of bankruptcy, like its rivals Chrysler and General Motors.

Ford Motor Company's third quarter profit in North America was its biggest since at least 2000.

But the company's financial performance was dragged down by Europe, where a protracted recession has cripped car sales.

Ford lost $468 million in that region.

The company has a turnaround plan for Europe, and it's very similar to what Ford did to recover in North America:  decisive downsizing, including closing plants, while at the same time investing heavily in future products.

If you live in the 11th Congressional District and you're confused right now - it is NOT your fault. Here's a quick recap.

The 11th Congressional District became even more Republican after the most recent redistricting. So five-term incumbent Thaddeus McCotter was considered a shoe-in. That is, until it all fell apart in July.

Turns out some of McCotter's staff didn't get the 2,000 signatures needed to get their boss on the ballot.

Both Ford and General Motors announced steps this week to reduce their losses in Europe.

The region is experiencing a disabling recession that's expected to last at least through 2015.

Car sales are abysmal in Europe, down more than 30-percent from normal demand.

Ford says it may lose a total of one billion dollars in the region for the entire year.

General Motors' losses might be more than that.

A voting rights group says it will be on call on Election Day.

Volunteers will staff a hotline that voters can call if they experience problems casting a ballot.

Jocelyn Benson is with the Michigan Center for Election Law.

She says the phone number will be on yard signs outside most precincts.

On October 3rd, Terry Kowal, City Clerk for Auburn Hills, sent out 1,455 absentee voting ballots to residents who had requested them.

She knew she had a problem about a week later.  Calls started coming in from voters, saying things like, "Where's my ballot?  My husband got his, but I didn't get mine."

"That always raises a red flag for clerks because they're mailed at the same time," Kowal told Michigan Radio.  (And) they're filed alphabetically, so they'd be in the same mail tray."

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kerry Bentivolio was fired from a teaching job.   In fact, Mr. Bentivolio, although he received written reprimands for yelling at students, left of his own accord.  We greatly regret the error.

 

The 11th Congressional District race is heating up.

The district was until recently represented by Thaddeus McCotter, before he resigned in a scandal over fake nominating petition signatures.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company won't confirm an Automotive News report that its Lincoln brand will be re-badged as "Lincoln Motor Company."

Auto News reported this summer that it had obtained a document sent by Ford to a number of marketing firms, in which Ford said it intended to rename the venerable brand -- with a venerable name.

Ford Motor Company acquired the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend."    

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Detroit Free Press reports that the United Auto Workers union - no friend to Governor Rick Snyder - is considering a deal with billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun - also no friend to the Governor.

The deal would involve Moroun helping the union pay for ads in support of Proposal 2, which would enshrine labor organizing rights in the state constitution.

State officials have chosen Priority Health HMO as the benchmark for a new health care exchange.

It's another step towards the inevitable - unless the next President and Congress make major modifications to the Affordable Care Act, or nullify it completely.

Uninsured people will be required to buy health insurance through state health care exchanges by January 1, 2014.

The state's decision means all other health insurance companies must offer at least the same level of benefits as Priority Health HMO.

Ford Motor Company hopes to earn a place on the hybrid map in the U.S. with its new C-Max.

The company knows that won't be easy. 

No one comes even close to the dominant sales position of the Toyota Prius line of vehicles - the original Prius, the smaller Prius C, and the larger Prius V.

Ford's new C-Max has a major bragging point:  it beats the fuel economy of the Prius V by 7 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Prius is beloved by its owners; it has one of the highest loyalty ratings of any car. 

So Ford has chosen a gentle style of humor over an aggressive pitch to sell the C-Max.

Ford today launched a series of ads using a cartoon character, "La Linea," -- a revival of the classic 1970s character from a popular Italian animated children’s series.

The ads show the character overcoming the performance limitations of a Toyota Prius, by driving a Ford C-Max.  You can see one of the ads here:

“The ads are done with just the right tonality of competitiveness versus a strong competitor. It clearly positions our product in a fun way,” says Matt VanDyke, director, U.S. Marketing Communications, Ford Motor Company .

Henry Ford Community College

It's been a long time since the days you could succeed on the factory floor with "a weak mind and a strong back," as the adage goes.

Modern manufacturers need people who use their minds more than their bodies.  

Today, manufacturing workers need to be computer literate, solve problems when the robots on the line shut down, and work in teams.

The Obama administration says manufacturing companies added jobs for the first time since the 1990s - more than 500,000 jobs in the past 30 months.

A survey conducted by Michigan State University's Charles Ballard shows an improved approval rating for Governor Snyder.
MSU

The latest "State of the State" survey from Michigan State University indicates people in the state are feeling pretty good about the economy, a little more positive about the Governor, and the same about the President.

MSU Economics Professor Charles Ballard conducts the survey of likely voters in Michigan once a quarter. The latest was taken in August.

It shows that Governor Snyder's approval rating rose, from 33 to 38 percent. 

That's still lower than the President's 41 percent.  But that 41 percent is unchanged from the previous quarter's survey.   

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company launched the new Fusion today - in five different cities.

The big splash highlights the importance of the car to Ford.

More people buy midsize cars in the U.S. than any other size-- and midsize cars are becoming more popular in other regions of the world, too.

Ford wants to topple the dominant player, the Toyota Camry --and says the new Fusion will make even further inroads.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally says he has NOT told his company's board when he will retire-- contrary to recent media speculation.

Mulally's retirement date is an obsessively pursued story in the auto press.

Bloomberg, Reuters and the Wall Street Journal especially are all vying to be the first to get it right.

Bloomberg said last week that the Board of Ford Motor Company was poised to promote Mark Fields, Ford's President of the Americas.

DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co's (F.N) board of directors is considering keeping Chief Executive Alan Mulally involved with the No. 2 U.S. automaker after his retirement as nonexecutive chairman, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

ford.wieck.com

Ever since Ford CEO Alan Mulally turned 65, one question invariably comes up during media scrums at Ford Motor Company events.  "When are you going to retire?" some reporter or other asks.

Now that he's 67, the question is being asked even more frequently -- even though the man is by all accounts healthy, extremely fit, and a fierce competitor on the tennis court and golf course - and even though he seems to relish his job.  

Pages