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.

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Politics
4:45 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Online searchable "checkbook" proposed for state universities

A state House Republican says citizens should be able to see every expense for state universities.  

Representative Tom McMillin proposes a constitutional amendment that would require universities to list all their expenses. The items would be kept in an online searchable database.

Universities aren't lining up to support the idea.

Mike Boulus is head of the President's Council, a group that represents state universities in Michigan.

He says universities are in favor of transparency.

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Business
9:19 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Rough Patches Behind It, Toyota Tries To Accelerate

A crane lifts a Toyota to the top level of New York's Javits Convention Center on April 2, before the New York International Auto Show.
Joe Polimeni PR Newswire

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 8:23 am

Paul Schubert and his wife decided to buy a new car last summer — a really fuel-efficient one. After a lot of research, they settled on a Toyota Prius. But there was a problem: They couldn't find one.

The tsunami that devastated Japan in March had dried up supplies of the Prius, which is made in Japan, and a dealer told them they would have to wait — "about four months," Schubert says. "And we thought, well, it'd be, probably, end of November, early December before we were going to have a car."

The Schuberts still had a working car.

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Environment
9:00 am
Tue April 17, 2012

Study: Electric cars produce fewer emissions than hybrids... sometimes

A new study says electric cars produce fewer global warming emissions than hybrids - in some regions. 

The Union of Concerned Scientists says electricity in California and New York isn't as reliant on older, coal-burning power plants as other regions.

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politics
3:39 pm
Tue April 10, 2012

Language of recall petition against Rick Snyder approved

The Washtenaw County Elections Commission has approved the language on a recall petition  against Governor Snyder, by a two to one vote.

The commission member who opposed the language argued that the first sentence on the petition is unclear. 

The sentence reads, “Governor Snyder has abused the children of Michigan.”  The petition then lists things like cuts to school funding and food aid.  

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Auto/Economy
5:50 pm
Sun April 8, 2012

Jeep signs major deal with Italian soccer team

Jeep has signed a three-year, $45 million marketing deal with an Italian professional football club. 

The agreement could help the brand make inroads in Europe, where SUVs are uncommon.

The Jeep logo will soon appear on the backs of the jerseys worn by the Italian soccer team Juventus.  The team will also get Jeeps for club use. 

Michigan Radio sports commentator John U. Bacon says it’s an aggressive marketing ploy that will almost certainly boost Jeep’s brand awareness in Europe.

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Michigan State Fair
5:46 pm
Sun April 8, 2012

Governor to sign bills allowing sale of Michigan State fairgrounds

Michigan’s state fair had a very long run. It was first held in 1849, making it the second oldest state fair in the country.

But the event lost money most years after 1970.

The 2008 fair ended with a deficit of $362,000.00.

Attendance dropped 39% over the final eight years of the Fair’s existence.

In 2009, Governor Jennifer Granholm ended all state funding for the fair, and it closed.

On Monday, Governor Snyder will sign bills which will authorize the state to sell the property.

The 157 acre property is located just east of Woodward Avenue, close to 8 Mile.

Any money made from the sale of the Fairgrounds will be added to the state’s general fund.

Auto/Economy
1:44 pm
Thu April 5, 2012

Car owners please apply!

Love it or hate it, nothing has shaped the American landscape quite like the car.

Tell us how important cars are to you. Do you name your cars? Do you love to drive?  Is your car part of your identity?

Or, could you go a day, a week, or even a month without one?

Be a part of our Public Insight Network of everyday people with a story to tell:

https://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/dc28ee052529/how-important-is-it-to-own-a-car 

Save the manuals
10:43 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Saving the stick shift, one driver at a time

Seventy years ago, 70% of American-made cars came with a stick shift. 

The number is less than nine percent today.  

One man is on a quest to reverse that slide.

Eddie Alterman is the top editor at Car and Driver magazine.  He doesn't mind being called a gearhead.   His whole career, he’s watched the sales of cars with stick shifts decline.  And when Ferrari failed to offer a manual option for the new 458 Italia, he said, enough’s enough.  Basta. 

Alterman is going to do something about it, even if he has to convert people one by one.

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Health
5:53 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Success story for cystic fibrosis treatment has downside

A new study says aggressively treating lung infections in cystic fibrosis patients works – but only for awhile. 

Dr. John LiPuma of the University of Michigan says people with C-F live longer, healthier lives now because of antibiotics. 

But, after a while, the drugs kill off more benign bacteria.  That allows drug-resistent bacteria to flourish. 

Eventually, there’s nothing doctors can do for their C-F patients who develop bacterial lung infections.

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Dexter tornado
9:30 am
Fri March 16, 2012

F-3 tornado destroys homes in Dexter (PHOTOS)

Tornado damage in Dexter, Michigan.
Zoe Clark Michigan Radio

Update 9:30 a.m.

The Associated Press reports more than 100 homes were severely damaged and 13 homes were destroyed in last night's F3 tornado in Dexter.

It appears people were warned in time.  Miraculously, there have been no reports of serious injuries or deaths.

From the Associated Press:

Initial estimates indicate the tornado that hit Dexter, northwest of Ann Arbor, Thursday evening was packing winds of around 135 mph, National Weather Service meteorologist Steven Freitag said Friday. He said it was on the ground for about a half hour and plowed a path about 10 miles long.

Dexter firefighter Dave Wisley told the Dexter Leader there are multiple gas leaks reported, but no fires have been reported.

The Red Cross reports officials are assessing affected neighborhoods this morning. 

Two shelters have been set up in the wake of last night's storms to provide health services, mental health services, food, water and basic needs.

  1. For those affected by the tornado in Dexter the shelter is at the Mill Creek Middle School in Dexter. The school is located at 7305 Dexter-Ann Arbor Rd.
  2. For those affected by flooding at the Park Place Apartments in Ann Arbor a second shelter in Ann Arbor has been set up. This shelter is at the Salvation Army at 100 Arbana Drive in Ann Arbor.

AnnArbor.com reports on power outages in Dexter:

An estimated 4,000 homes were without power this morning in Washtenaw County, most of them in the Dexter area.

Paul Ganz, regional manager for DTE Energy, said it was an "all-out call-out.''

"Dexter is a priority today,'' he said.

10:39 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra traveled to the Huron Farms neighborhood, where dozens of houses were damaged by the tornado: roofs torn off, siding blown into the street, whole walls missing.

Some houses were completely destroyed, reduced to nothing more than a heaping pile of wood.

Monica Waidley and her family were among the lucky ones. She says the tornado didn’t touch their house:

"We were in the basement watching things fly through the air out of our backdoor; peoples’ lives landing in our backyards, it was really scary."

The Waidleys were visiting their friend, Vicki Shieck, who also lives in the neighborhood. Shieck says she was "down in the basement, doing the tornado tuck" when the tornado hit. Her house was spared, with just a little bit of window and roof damage.

Shieck says the tornado "literally went kitty corner" between her and her neighbors' house, before it careened up the path and destroyed nearby houses.

Residents were seen leaving the neighborhood with suitcases, some carrying whatever valuables they could.

There have been no reports that anyone was injured or killed.

9:15 p.m.

A powerful tornado touched down in Dexter, Michigan at 5:33 p.m. Thursday evening.

The tornado demolished homes and damaged many others, uprooting trees and power lines.

It appears that no one was seriously injured or killed.

There were also reports of funnel clouds in Northfield Township and Saline, but trained spotters did not report any actual tornados.

Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark traveled to the scene and reported seeing homes with roofs and exterior walls stripped off. 

The Detroit Free Press reports that at least 50 homes are damaged:

...with roofs torn off, walls missing and interior rooms now exposed in Dexter. Debris litters the neighborhood. Insulation from houses float in large puddles in the streets and yard.

AnnArbor.com reports the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department says so far, no deaths or serious injuries have been reported:

Police and rescuers are searching door to door to confirm that, spokesman Derrick Jackson said in an e-mailed message.

A shelter has been set up at Mill Creek School and people who need shelter can go there, he said. People who have power were advised to stay in their homes.

Auto/Economy
9:54 am
Wed March 14, 2012

Auto parts suppliers hiring as fast as they can

Workers build cars on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Co.'s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Mich., in December. As auto sales boom, parts suppliers are having a tough time finding the labor they need to catch up, having lost workers during the recession.
Bill Pugliano Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 14, 2012 8:17 am

Part of a series

Detroit automakers are creating thousands of new jobs amid a sales boom. And as they expand, their suppliers are racing to keep up, adding tens of thousands of new jobs.

At Bridgewater Interiors in Warren, Mich., for example, the pace is intense. Hundreds of union employees scurry to fill a growing list of orders. The factory floor is packed with stacks of foam cushions, seat covers and headrests.

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Auto suppliers recover
10:49 am
Mon March 12, 2012

Auto suppliers recover but "choke point" looms

Michigan lost 45,000 auto supply jobs from 2008 to 2009, according to the Center for Automotive Research. 

By the end of this year, it will have gained most of those jobs back.  

Suppliers say they are hiring, but the recovery is not without its bumps.  

No one knows exactly how many auto supply companies in the state went under in 2008 and 2009.  That’s because some owners didn’t bother to file for bankruptcy; they just sent their workers home and locked up the shop.  

Read more
Year after tsunami - cars
10:38 am
Mon March 12, 2012

Japanese car companies 1 year after tsunami

Douglas Sprott / Flickr

Japanese car sales in the U.S. have nearly recovered, a year after a tsunami devastated parts of Japan.  

The disaster affected many Honda and Toyota suppliers, and the companies’ car inventories in the U.S. plummeted. 

Michelle Krebs is with Edmunds.com.  She says Hyundai and Kia, along with Ford, General Motors and Chrysler, all benefited from the situation.  

"The market share runs about 45-46% for the Big Three in the U.S.," notes Kreb.  "That shot way up to 50.3 % - a number we hadn’t seen in a long time."

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Auto
10:10 am
Tue March 6, 2012

Ford upgrades oft-criticized MyFord Touch

Ford Motor Company

Ford is giving its touch-screen system, called MyFord Touch, a big upgrade.   The modifications will also be made to Lincoln vehicles.

The changes will be free to customers who already have the system in their cars.  Dealers will also upgrade new cars on their lots.

MyFord Touch uses a computer touchscreen to control things like the radio, IPod, cellphone, and navigation. 

Ford acknowledges the touchscreen had problems; it shut down unexpectedly, it took too long to respond to the customer’s touch, and there was too much information on the screen.  

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Auto/Economy
4:17 pm
Wed February 29, 2012

GM forms alliance with Peugeot to stem Europe losses

GM CEO Dan Akerson and PSA Peugeot Citroen Chairman of the Managing Board Phillipe Varin
GM

General Motors is forming an alliance with French carmaker Peugeot to help the company make progress in getting to a breakeven point in Europe. 

GM made a record profit last year, but it was no thanks to Europe, where the company lost $700 million.  

The limited alliance with Peugeot will involve the joint development of some car platforms and joint parts purchasing. 

The companies estimate it will save a total $2 billion within a few years.

GM CEO Dan Akerson says the two companies will continue to compete in other areas.

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Auto
10:04 am
Mon February 27, 2012

Auto Bailout Is Hot-Button Issue In Michigan

Originally published on Mon February 27, 2012 7:03 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

General Motors made a record-breaking profit last year. And to date, taxpayers have recovered close to half the $50 billion federal investment in the company. So the auto bailout worked, right? Wrong, say Republican presidential candidates, who insist the bailout was a huge mistake.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports.

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Politics
11:29 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Mitt Romney courts Tea Party groups in Milford

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney stumped for primary votes in Milford last night, at an event sponsored by eight different Tea Party groups.   

Wes Nakagiri is the founder of one Tea Party group called Retake Our Gov.  Nakagiri says all Tea Party members share some common beliefs.

"We believe that piling mountains of debt on our children and grandchildren is immoral and absolutely wrong," he told the crowd in a short speech, before introducing Governor Romney without fanfare.

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GM profit
10:25 am
Thu February 16, 2012

GM makes record profit of $7.6 billion despite losses in Europe

General Motors posted a record profit of $7.6 billion in 2011, although its losses in Europe were very high -- $700 million.

In a conference call with analysts, GM CEO Dan Akerson  called Europe a "rather challenging market, not only for GM and Opel, but also for our competition."

GM also lost $100 million in South America.

Most of the money GM made came from sales in North America.  GM made $7.2 billion before taxes in the region.

GM plans to make major structural changes in Europe to reduce its persistent losses there.  

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Sweet-smelling bribes
3:55 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Sometimes you get an I-Pad...sometimes you don't.

I think it’s no secret that reporters get unsolicited gifts in the mail or at posh press events from time to time.

That’s especially true for reporters on the auto beat. 

A bunch of auto beat reporters a couple years ago (not me) got I-Pads in the mail.   I’m pretty sure they were returned due to their various employers’ ethics policies.   No one has owned up to keeping one!

Not all the gifts are that obvious in their attempt to curry favor.

And some are flat-out hilarious.

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Detroit
3:06 pm
Fri February 10, 2012

Detroit police agree to tentative deal as city fights possible takeover

jalopnik.com

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced a tentative deal has been reached with police unions, as the city tries to head off a threatened state takeover.  

The size of Detroit’s deficit is in dispute, but the city could run out of cash by April. 

A state review team is investigating whether Detroit needs an emergency manager.  That person could set aside union contracts under current state law.  

Bing says the city can fix its own financial problems.  Last week most non-uniformed city unions agreed to take cuts. 

Read more

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