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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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. 

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State budget
11:58 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Governor's budget: small increases for schools, roads, cities; more for police

Screen shot from Michigan State Senate TV Live.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has proposed a $48.2 billion budget for the fiscal year that starts in October. The proposed budget has modest increases for cities, K-12 and higher education, and roads. State police would get a larger increase. There are no major tax reforms in the budget.

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Auto/Economy
5:58 pm
Wed February 1, 2012

General Motors ready for gas price spike but doesn't really expect one

General Motors reported U.S. car sales in January were down 6% from the same month a year ago.

But GM's head of U.S. Sales, Don Johnson, says comparing the two months is tough.  That's because the Detroit automaker boosted sales significantly last January with incentives. 

Johnson says the good news is GM increased its market share in the U.S. last month, compared to December.  GM had about a 19% market share last month.

Johnson says it's not possible to predict gasoline prices, but for most of 2012, he thinks they'll stay under $4.00 a gallon.

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Auto/Economy
11:45 am
Wed February 1, 2012

Chrysler makes a profit but Fiat breaks even in 2011

Chrysler is on the mend.  

The Detroit automaker made money last year for the first time since 2005.

The profit -- $183 million -- was modest.  But it would have been much larger, were it not for the company's decision to pay off its federal loans years early.  The payoff resulted in a $500 million charge.

Chrysler also reported strong sales for January of this year, up 44 percent from the same month last year, driven largely by demand for the company’s passenger cars.  

The company expects 2012 to be up to eight times more profitable than 2011.

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Auto sales
6:08 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

January continues car sales momentum as great products lure customers

January was another good month for U.S. car sales. 

Analysts think most car companies will report they sold more cars in January than they did in the same month last year.

Part of the reason is pent-up demand.  Many people held onto their old cars during the recession, and month by month, those aging cars are giving out.  People are also feeling a bit more confident in the economy.

Also, it appears Toyota has for the most part gotten back to full production, after last year's tsunami in Japan.

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Auto/Politics
4:27 pm
Tue January 31, 2012

President praises American auto companies at D.C. Auto Show

Military tribute version of Camaro
GM GM

From White House pool reports:

President Obama walked into the showroom of the 70th annual Washington Auto Show Tuesday afternoon, where he inspected about 15 new electric and hybrid models from Ford, Dodge, and General Motors.

The president was individually shown the vehicles by Sharif Marakby, director of electrification programs and engineering for Ford Motor Co; Reid Bigland, Dodge president and CEO; and Ed Welburn, vice president of global design for General Motors.

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Auto/Economy
1:29 pm
Fri January 27, 2012

Ford posts third consecutive annual profit despite speed bumps

Ford Motor Company posted its third consecutive annual profit last year.   

It’s another sign that the company’s massive restructuring effort, which began in 2006, has returned the company to financial health. 

"This was our plan," said Ford CEO Alan Mulally.  "This is our vision of growing a great company for the good of all of us." 

Ford made an $8.8 billion pre-tax operating profit last year, not including a one-time tax gain.  That compares to an $8.3 billion pre-tax operating profit in 2010.

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Auto/Economy
3:34 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

Chevy Volt hearing an "opportunity" says Mark Reuss

General Motors North American President Mark Reuss weighed in on his boss's testimony Wednesday before a Congressional subcommittee. 

The hearing was entitled, "Volt vehicle fire: What did NHTSA know, and when did they know it?"

Reuss says, "It was a huge opportunity for us, yesterday, and the whole company is proud of Dan [Akerson - GM's CEO].  But more importantly it gives the whole country a look into what this company can be."

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Auto/Economy
4:17 pm
Wed January 25, 2012

GM CEO defends safety of Chevy Volt at Congressional hearing

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson strongly defended the safety of the Chevy Volt during his testimony before a House subcommittee Wednesday.    

The hearing was entitled "Volt vehicle fire:  What did NHTSA know, and when did they know it?"   

Last June, a fire broke out in a Chevy Volt, three weeks after it had been damaged in a crash test.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened an official investigation into the fire risk of the Volt in late November, after performing two other tests on the Volt's battery alone.

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Auto/Economy
5:57 pm
Tue January 24, 2012

Chrysler to train workers in Fiat efficiency system

Chrysler's Alexandra Nicholaou demonstrates human motion sensor system at WCM Academy.
Tracy Samilton Michigan Radio

Fiat first implemented what it calls The World Class Manufacturing system in Italy. 

Workers are trained to problem-solve to make their work station and factory more productive and efficient.  Ferreting out inefficiencies becomes everyone's focus, not just the managers.

Now Chrysler is using the system.

Workers will be trained at a high-tech lab in Warren - the World Class Manufacturing Academy - that includes practice engine and door assembly lines, movement sensors and problem-solving exercises. 

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Auto/Economy
5:57 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

Motorists curtailing miles driven as gas prices remain high

Dottie Mae flickr

People in Michigan and around the country are driving less in response to stubbornly high gasoline prices. 

Fred Rozell is with the Oil Price Information Service.  The group tracks oil prices from the refinery to the gas station.

He says demand for gasoline dropped two and a half percent in the third quarter of last year, and another three and a half percent in the fourth quarter.

"Which is a pretty big decrease in demand, so it appears people are cutting back on driving and starting to conserve more because of the higher costs."

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Politics
5:01 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

Campaign to repeal emergency manager law "on track" say organizers

Protesters gather outside the gated community where Governor Snyder lives. Laura Weber / Michigan Public Radio Network

The group “Michigan Forward,” says a campaign to repeal the state’s emergency manager law is on track to get on the November ballot.

That’s even though the group decided to wait another six to seven weeks before submitting its petition signatures.

Initially, Michigan Forward had planned to turn in signatures on the same day as the Governor's 2012 State of the State address.

CEO Brandon Jessup says he hopes to have 250,000 signatures in favor of a repeal measure, far more than required by law.   He says people have collected about 180,000 signatures so far.

"We’re on the buses, we’re at at the bus stops, that’s just one component of the campaign that’s picking up now," says Jessup.  "We have a very strong church component, we’ve visited, I believe, 75 churches over the last two Sundays, just here in Detroit by itself."

Jessup says the emergency manager law takes away people’s constitutional right to elect their leaders.

Governor Rick Snyder says the law encourages the state to help cities and schools without resorting to the appointment of an emergency manager.   But he says sometimes an emergency manager is necessary for cities facing insolvency.

Detroit Auto Show
4:16 pm
Mon January 16, 2012

Feeling of "euphoria" at Detroit Auto Show with attendance up

2012 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Attendance is up about ten percent at the North American International Auto Show.   

195,000 people attended the show on Saturday and Sunday, the first two days the show was open to the public. That compares to about 180,000 people the first two days of the show last year.

Of course, the weather has been quite good for Michigan this time of year. But organizers think there's more than that to account for the increase.

Detroit Auto Show Chairman Bill Perkins says there’s a feeling of “euphoria."

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Business
7:36 am
Thu January 12, 2012

Cadillac Gears Up To Take On German Automakers

Start Your Engines: With Cadillac's unveiling of the ATS — a compact luxury car — the Detroit automaker put itself in direct competition with BMW's 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz's C-Class.
Geoff Robins AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 11, 2012 5:03 pm

This year's auto show in Detroit could set the stage for a shake-up in the fiercely competitive — and hugely profitable — luxury car scene. That's because there's a new kid on the block, and its name is Cadillac.

The General Motors company says its new small, high-performance ATS will allow it to compete for the first time with Audi, Mercedes-Benz and BMW. But getting a brand-new luxury car like the ATS ready for market can be a grueling process.

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Detroit Auto Show
1:09 pm
Tue January 10, 2012

Detroit Auto Show: Behind the Scenes with Tracy Samilton

Michigan Radio Auto Reporter Tracy Samilton shows off her coveted credentials.
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

 It’s a good show this year….unless you like “far-out” concept cars

The mood at the North American International Auto Show is upbeat. Sure, Europe’s debt crisis and the battered Euro have auto executives concerned, but so far that crisis isn’t stopping the U.S. economy’s improvement, albeit at a very measured (slow) pace. 

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Detroit auto show
2:53 pm
Mon January 9, 2012

Ford, GM, Chrysler all hope to make gains against foreign competition

The 2013 Ford Fusion at the Detroit Auto Show.
Mercedes Mejia/Michigan Radio

Detroit automakers are introducing cars at this year’s Detroit Auto Show that could help them make gains against foreign-based competitors. 

Ford Motor Company is unveiling its new Fusion, hoping to topple the traditional midsize sedan leaders, the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.  

The Fusion will also come in hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions, with the plug-in getting the equivalent of 100 miles per gallon.  

Ford CEO Alan Mulally says the company sold a record number of Fusions in 2011 -

"It had its best sales year ever," Mulally told reporters after revealing the Fusion at Joe Louis Arena.  "So the new Fusion is going to build on that success and be very, very popular with consumers."

But Ford Executive Chairman, Bill Ford, Jr., says the company is not going to pursue an increase in market share for the coveted midsize sedan segment just for the sake of market share.

"We are not going to play that volume game," he says.  "If it happens organically, great, but we don’t have some magic number on the wall that we’re all pushing toward."

Meanwhile, Cadillac on Sunday introduced a new small luxury vehicle, the ATS, to compete against BMW and Mercedes Benz.   GM North American President Mark Reuss says the car is a "true driver's car," and can compete head to head with the Mercedes Benz C class and the BMW 3 series.

BMW North America head Ludwig Willisch says a new competitor is always a concern, but he's confident that upgrades to the new 3-series will enable the company to keep its leadership position.

For its part, Chrysler introduced a new small car called the Dodge Dart.  The car will compete against small cars made both by its Detroit rivals and foreign-based companies including Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.

Detroit auto show
7:38 am
Mon January 9, 2012

Cadillac goes head to head with German automakers with new ATS

Cadillac got an early start on the 2012 Detroit Auto Show with the unveiling of a new small car Sunday night.

General Motors hopes the ATS will help Cadillac compete for the first time with BMW and Mercedes Benz. 

Most of the luxury cars sold around the world are small cars. Cadillac hasn't had a small luxury car for many years and it hasn't had a successful small car for even longer.

The acknowledged leaders are BMW with its 3 series and Mercedes Benz with its C-class cars. GM North American President Mark Reuss says the Cadillac ATS can outperform those German cars on the famous - or infamous - Nurburgring track - which features dangerous turns and steep hills that send cars airborne.

"[We're] taking on the European competition head to head. [The ATS] is a true driver's car in every sense," Reuss said.

Reuss said he thinks there might be demand for the ATS even in Europe, but Cadillac will focus on U.S. sales first. BMW launches its new 3 series at the Detroit auto show Monday.

Auto/Economy
6:53 pm
Tue January 3, 2012

Global auto sales to outpace economy; luxury segment to outpace non-luxury

The auto industry will grow at a faster pace than the economy as a whole in 2012. 

A new report by R.L. Polk says that faster pace will be largely driven by demand for cars in China.

Last year, the Chinese government ended subsidies for fuel-efficient cars, and as a result, car sales in that country declined from the breakneck pace of 2010.   

But Anthony Pratt of Polk says the Chinese middle class is still growing, as people move by the millions from the countryside into urban areas.   

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