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
6:29 pm
Mon November 14, 2011

UM says domestic partner benefits keep top talent in state

University of Michigan officials have sent a letter to all 38 Michigan state senators, asking them to vote “no” on a bill that would ban domestic partner benefits. 

Before Michigan voters approved a law that banned same-gender marriage, the University of Michigan and several other public universities in the state offered benefits to the same-sex partners of employees and their children. 

The language was later reworked to remove specific references to same-sex partnerships, substituting "other eligible individual,"  but the effect of the policies is the same.   

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Auto/Economy
2:02 pm
Sun November 13, 2011

Once rescued by Fiat, Chrysler is now rescuer of Fiat

Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne
user dgtmedia-simone wikimedia commons

While Chrysler is finally making money in the United States this year, financial uncertainty in Italy is hitting car sales there hard.   

Inventories are swelling, and incentives are rising.

Fiat lost $285 million in the third quarter of this year, and the overall economic situation doesn't bode well for the company's fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Chrysler made a modified operating profit of $483 million in the third quarter.

Michael Robinet is with IHS Automotive. He said the merger of the two companies is working the way it should. 

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Auto/Economy
10:51 am
Thu November 10, 2011

Chinese counterfeit electronics found in U.S. missiles

Ashley Dace Geograph

Michigan Senator Carl Levin says the United States needs to crack down on counterfeit electronic parts coming from China.

Levin says thousands of fake parts have been discovered in the U.S. military’s supply stream.  Some missiles even had to be stripped apart to remove counterfeit parts from China.

He says it’s dangerous – and China won’t do anything to stop it.

Levin has proposed an amendment to require inspections of parts coming from China.

He says it’s not part of a China-bashing campaign. 

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Environment
5:39 pm
Wed November 9, 2011

One more project in Dow's long cleanup of Tittabawassee

Dow Chemical will begin removing pollution from a three-mile stretch of the Tittabawassee River near its Midland plant.

Dow already removed dioxin and furan contamination in the area; but there are five other chemicals that remain that can be harmful to wildlife.

The company just finished removing a dioxin-laced island in the river.

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Auto/Economy
10:07 am
Wed November 9, 2011

GM's Akerson says solid 3rd quarter "not good enough"

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson

General Motors made $1.7 billion in the third quarter of this year.

That's down from $2 billion in the same period of 2010.

Financial turmoil in Europe contributed to GM's continued losses in Europe, although GM did cut those losses in half compared to last year, to $300 million.

GM is also not doing particularly well in South America.  The company broke even in that region.  GM officials say that's due to increased competition in the region and an aging lineup there.

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Native American
6:29 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

Hotel owner, tribe cooperate in repatriation of remains on Mackinac Island

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians will rebury human remains found last week at a construction site on Mackinac Island.

Cecil Pavlot, Sr. handles repatriation for the tribe. 

He said the ceremony won’t be publicized to avoid it becoming a “three-ring circus.”

"Not to be secretive," said Pavot, "But to be respectful and not have a crowd standing around and watching."

Pavlot said it’s possible the remains could be European settlers.

But he thinks it’s much more likely they’re Native Americans, because of the way the bodies were buried.

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Health
6:15 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

C-Sections, induced labor decrease at MI hospitals

user drewesque Flickr

Michigan hospitals are reducing unnecessary caesarian sections and medically induced labors.

The procedures dropped about six percent in a year, after a project that began at Oakwood Hospital was adopted state-wide.

Dr. Charles Cash of Oakwood Hospital says doctors there performed zero C-sections this year, unless there was a medical reason like seizures in the mother. 

The hospital also did not induce early labor in any patient, meaning before 39 weeks, except for medical reasons.

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Auto/Economy
2:35 pm
Tue November 8, 2011

The Michigan-China Connection (an audio documentary)

Cars, agriculture, tourism, it’s all fair game for people who want Michigan to tap into the Chinese market.

But what does that really mean and who really stands to benefit?

Governor Rick Snyder recently led a Michigan delegation to China.

He says strong economic ties between Michigan and what is now the world’s fastest growing economy are essential to Michigan’s economic growth.

Part 1

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Tourism
10:58 am
Tue November 8, 2011

Pure Michigan in China? Not for awhile, say tourism officials

No Great Lakes promotions in China... yet
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Michigan’s agriculture industry is busy expanding in China.  But the same can’t be said for the state’s tourism industry.  At least not yet.  A million Chinese tourists are expected to visit the U.S. this year.  But only a relative handful will come to the Great Lakes State. 

Fran Wiltgen helps her son Joe, run his business, Joe's Bar and Grill, in South Haven, Michigan.

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Michigan food going to China
1:31 am
Mon November 7, 2011

From Michigan's fields to Chinese dinner tables

China is already playing a role in Michigan’s effort to diversify its economy. The country’s 1.3 billion people don’t want just cars from Michigan companies, they also want Michigan foods.

From baby food to blueberries, Michigan is tapping into a new and profitable market in China.

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October U.S. auto sales
5:54 pm
Tue November 1, 2011

October U.S. auto sales up, especially at Chrysler

U.S. auto sales rose again last month, as pent-up demand for cars continues to overcome low consumer confidence in the economy. 

Chrysler’s sales increase was especially strong, as customers continue to return to the smallest of the Detroit Three car companies. 

The company's sales rose 27 percent over October last year. 

It was also the 19th straight month of sales increases for Chrysler.  

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com says Chrysler finally has new products to sell, like the new Jeep Compass, which outsold its predecessor by 566 percent. 

Krebs says Chrysler is also running good ads for its cars, like the instantly iconic Superbowl ad starring Eminem and the Chrysler 200.

"And it’s caused people to at least know that the company still exists," says Krebs, "when many people did not think the company would survive after its bankruptcy, and it’s catching the attention of buyers."

Nissan sales rose 18 percent, while sales declined nearly 8 percent at Toyota and 1 percent at Honda.  Both companies are recovering from inventory shortfalls related to the tsunami in Japan last spring.

Group criticizes nursing homes, state
6:25 pm
Mon October 31, 2011

State: "Disgusting" neglect cases not typical in MI nursing homes

An advocacy group says many nursing homes patients in the state have experienced severe neglect and abuse.

The Michigan Protection and Advocacy Service says one of the worst cases involves a resident who had to have maggots suctioned out of her throat, after she was taken to an emergency room because she was having trouble breathing.

Another resident had maggots infesting her body near her catheter.

But state officials said these are isolated cases, and most nursing homes do a good job caring for residents.

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October Auto Sales
10:05 pm
Sun October 30, 2011

Another good car sales month, despite poor economy

The U.S. economy is still ailing, but it looks like auto sales had another good month, in part due to the recovery of Honda and Toyota. 

Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com said overall U.S. auto sales rose about 11-percent in October, compared to the same month last year. She said it appears Honda and Toyota are finally making progress at boosting inventories, after the tsunami in Japan that happened last spring.

"And so we think that a lot of people that were destined to buy Hondas and Toyotas put off their purchases and we think that pent-up demand is coming into the market," Krebs said.

Car sales were up at Chrysler, Ford and GM, too. Chrysler's sales could be up by 27% compared to October a year ago; Ford up by about 8%, and GM by about 7%.

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GM, Nexteer invest in Saginaw
11:38 am
Fri October 28, 2011

GM, Nexteer to invest in Saginaw operations

General Motors officials say the company will invest $215 million in the GM Saginaw Metal Casting Operation to tool the plant to build components for future GM vehicles. 

The plant makes engine blocks and cylinder heads for GM vehicles, including the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Malibu.

GM says the investment will create or maintain 275 jobs at the plant, which currently employs 630 people.

Later today, Nexteer is expected to announce a large capital investment in its Saginaw operations. 

Governor Rick Snyder will attend both events today.

Chrysler posts profit
6:09 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Chrysler makes $212 million profit

Chrysler made a profit in the third quarter of this year.

The news comes a day after Chrysler workers narrowly approved a new four-year contract.

The $212 million profit is small compared to Detroit rival Ford, which made $1.6 billion in the same period.

But it’s the second quarterly profit this year for Chrysler, and a sign that its recovery from the 2009 bankruptcy is gathering some steam.

In fact, Chrysler would have made a profit last quarter too, were it not for one-time costs associated with paying off its federal loans.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the just-ratified contract with the UAW will support the company in its growth plans.

The contract includes a much smaller signing bonus than the one Ford union members will get.

That was likely one of the main reasons the contract was so narrowly approved.

Ford problems easy fix
6:04 pm
Thu October 27, 2011

Ford quality issues easy to fix, says CEO Mulally

The CEO of Ford Motor Company says the company is well on the way to fixing quality problems in new Ford cars.

The problems resulted in a big drop in the rankings for Ford in Consumer Reports' 2011 reliability survey.

Customers are having problems with the company’s My Ford in-car communication system. 

Users found the touch screens hard to activate or they had to be rebooted frequently.  

Consumer Reports' David Champion said that’s a safety issue, if people are so distracted by the problems that they take their eyes off the road.  

The new transmission in the Focus and Fusion has glitches, too. 

CEO Alan Mulally said both problems are software related.  

"So it’s relatively easy and fast, to be able to make those improvements," Mulally told Michigan Radio.  "So we’ve already started to incorporate that in the products that are in the field but also in the new products coming out."

Mulally said Ford began working on the issue a year ago, right after customers started complaining. 

Ford fell from 10th to 20th place this year in the Consumer Reports reliability survey.

Ford profits slightly lower
10:20 am
Wed October 26, 2011

Ford third quarter profits down a bit but still strong

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company reports strong profits for the third quarter.  The company made $1.6 billion, despite a stagnant U.S. economy.   

The company's profit was down a bit from last year, because of a charge related to commodities, not because sales have slowed. 

Ford also reduced its debt by another $1.3 billion.

CEO Alan Mulally says the improved balance sheet -- and the new contract with the United Auto Workers -- will result in job growth over the next three to four years.

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Ford falls in reliability, Chrysler rises
5:22 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

Ford Motor Company falls, Chrysler rises in reliability survey

Ford Motor Company fell from grace in a Consumer Reports survey this year.

The survey predicts reliability of new models, based on past performance of older versions of the cars.

Ford dropped from 10th place to 20th.

David Champion is with Consumer Reports. 

He says the MyFordTouch and MyLincoln Touch in-car communications systems work poorly.

And a new transmission in the Ford Focus and Fusion doesn’t work well, especially at parking lot speeds.

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Chrysler UAW voting ends soon
9:28 am
Tue October 25, 2011

Chrysler UAW voting on contract ends soon, could be close

The United Auto Workers is expected to announce the results of voting on a tentative contract with Chrysler by Wednesday.

Chrysler is the last of the Detroit Three to reach a settlement on a new, four-year contract.

Kristin Dziczek is with the Center for Automotive Research.

She said so far, the vote looks very close.  Union members with Chrysler may have been expecting more than they got, she said.

This is coming on the heels of two very strong agreements with General Motors and with Ford that had more cash and fewer contingencies.

Entry-level workers, who receive about 1$14 an hour now, would get a raise of about $4 an hour, phased in over the four years of the contract.

Workers would get an immediate signing bonus of $1,750.00, with the promise of another $1,750.00 dollars if Chrysler meets certain financial goals.

If the contract is rejected, it goes to binding arbitration, because of an agreement the union made with Chrysler during the company’s bankruptcy.

UMHS nurses have tentative contract
9:20 am
Tue October 25, 2011

UMH nurses have tentative contract after big rallies

Four thousand University of Michigan Health System nurses will vote on a tentative contract next week.

Nurses have been working under an expired contract since June 30th.

Nurses’ union president Katie Oppenheim said details of the new contract will be released later, saying only, "We believe it’s an agreement that will provide improvements for our members."

The union reached an agreement after nurses held several large protest rallies in August and September. 

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