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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Auto/Economy
5:39 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Car leasing makes comeback

The availability of car leases practically disappeared during the recession.

But LeaseTrader.com says customer credit is recovering - and so is car leasing. 

John Sternal is Vice President of Marketing Communications for LeaseTrader.com.  He says more than 20 percent of new vehicles are now leased, including many small cars.

He says car leasing is more popular than ever before, because of a shifting attitude toward car ownership.

"Gone are the days when the majority of people will buy a car and hold onto it for fifteen years," says Sternal.

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Ford sued over Sync
5:33 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Company sues Ford Motor, alleges Sync patent infringement

A technology company has sued Ford Motor Company over patent infringements related to some of Ford’s hottest new products, including Sync.

The lawsuit says Eagle Harbor Holdings met with Ford starting in 2000 to discuss using Eagle Harbor’s voice command software and other patented technology. 

Eagle Harbor's General Counsel, Jeff Harmes, says Ford’s hands-free phone system, Sync, uses some of that technology.   But he says Ford broke off talks with Eagle Harbor in 2008.    

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Economy
3:32 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Federal government to jumpstart manufacturing in Michigan

Michigan site of partnership to expand manufacturing
Dr_Bob MorgueFile

Michigan is playing a starring role in a new federal initiative designed to spark the creation of new manufacturing jobs as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. The federal government will spend $500 million to jumpstart manufacturing research and development projects.

President Obama says the government played an important role initially in projects that led to the creation of the internet, cell phones, and companies like Google.  He says this investment can do the same for manufacturing.

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Politics
3:19 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Federal officials and insurance groups against helmet law repeal

The state Senate could vote on the helmet law repeal next week.
cha400 MorgueFile

Federal officials are trying to talk Michigan political leaders out of repealing the state's motorcycle helmet law. Members of the National Transportation Safety Board are in Lansing today to meet with Governor Snyder's administration.

Insurance groups are also getting involved. Laurie Conarton is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan. She says more people will be injured or die if the law is repealed:

"After Florida repealed their helmet law, there were 81% more fatalities and 80% more closed head injuries."

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GM War Room
1:30 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Saving GM - inside the company's "War Room."

When a massive quake struck Japan on Friday, March 11th, Bill Hurles was up north with his sons on a snowmobiling trip.  Hurles is head of supply chain for General Motors. 

After he saw the first footage of the tsunami slamming into the northern coast, Hurles cut his trip short and returned to Warren.   By early Sunday morning, he and his team were in the War Room, desperately trying to get information.

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Environment
6:38 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Raising Lake Huron water level problematic, says study

A new study suggests raising the water level in Lake Huron could cause as many problems as it solves. 

 Eugene Stakhiv is U.S. Co-chair of the International Great Lakes Study. 

He says people could build dams or other structures in the St. Clair River to slow the flow of water out of Lake Huron.  

That would raise the level of Lake Huron and benefit marinas and wetlands around the lake.   

But water levels would also rise near Chicago, which already has high lake levels.

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Auto/Economy
6:25 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Ford to boost production capacity for hybrids and plug-ins

Another American car company is betting that its U.S. customers want more hybrid cars. 

Ford Motor Company says it will hire more than 200 people to meet the increased demand for electrified cars.   

Earlier this year, General Motors  boosted production plans for the Volt by 30% for next year. 

Now, Ford plans a similar increase in its capacity to build hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars, including a new car called the C-Max. 

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Politics
6:22 pm
Thu June 9, 2011

Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac should be replaced, says Michigan Congressman

Congressman Gary Peters says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must go.  But he says they have to be replaced with something else.

The two quasi-private groups provide a federal guarantee for home mortgages.

Taxpayers had to bail out Fannie and Freddie after the housing sector meltdown.

Some people in Congress don’t want to replace Fannie and Freddie with anything, and just let the free market take over.

But Peters says without a federal guarantee, banks would stop offering 30-year mortgages.

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Ford, GM future bright
5:19 pm
Tue June 7, 2011

GM, Ford tell stakeholders that future is bright

Both Ford and General Motors today predicted they will expand their global presence, despite rising energy and commodity prices. 

GM held its first public stockholders meeting in Detroit – and Ford held its annual Investors Meeting in New York. 

GM CEO Dan Akerson told stockholders to consider the company a long-term investment, not short-term.  GM stock has lost a fair bit of value since the IPO in November.    

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General Motors Invest in Warren
10:45 am
Tue June 7, 2011

GM to build high-tech computer command center in Warren

General Motors will invest 130-million dollars in a new high-tech computer command center in Warren. 

The announcement follows a string of other investments by GM in North America. 

GM says the high performance computers at the new command center in Warren will help the company keep pace with the increasingly complex computer simulations required to build cars. 

It will also allow the company to keep its own data and customer data more securely.   

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Mackinac 2011
11:46 am
Fri June 3, 2011

GM can't tell U.S. Treasury when to sell its stock, says top exec

Reuss says the government’s part-ownership of GM matters to American taxpayers and customers.
media.gm.com

President Obama will visit a Chrysler plant in Ohio today, a day after the U.S. Treasury reached a deal to sell its remaining 6.6% stake in Chrysler to Fiat. 

Meanwhile, the Treasury still owns 26% of General Motors.  But GM North American President Mark Reuss says it’s up to the U.S. Treasury to decide when to get out of the car business completely. 

Reuss says the government’s part-ownership of GM matters to American taxpayers and customers.   It also matters to GM executives and workers.

But it's not up to GM when the Treasury sells its stock.

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Mackinac 2011
7:41 pm
Wed June 1, 2011

UAW President Bob King says his union is pro-business now

UAW President Bob King asked business leaders to reexamine their ideas about unions during a speech at the Detroit Regional Chamber's annual policy conference on Mackinac Island.

Acknowledging the conservatives in the crowd, King joked that it might be the closest he'll come to ever appearing at a Republican National Convention.

But his speech quickly turned serious, with an appeal to business leaders and Republicans to work with unions, not against them, for the good of both business and the middle class.

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Breaking: Jim Tressel resigns
10:38 am
Mon May 30, 2011

Buckeye football coach Jim Tressel resigns; good for Wolverines?

The man who led Ohio State to victories over the University of Michigan in nine out of the rivals' last ten games has resigned.

Football coach Jim Tressel faced an NCAA investigation into possible corruption in his program, including claims that players received cars from local dealerships. 

Sports analyst John U. Bacon says there have been allegations of corruption for years.  So he's not surprised that a scandal finally brought the Tressel era to an end, despite his stellar performance.

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U.S. Treasury to sell Chrysler stock
4:49 pm
Fri May 27, 2011

Chrysler to be free of government ownership before General Motors

Fiat says it will buy the U.S. Treasury’s 6% stake in Chrysler.   

The announcement means Chrysler will be free of government influence long before General Motors will be. 

Fiat and the U.S. Treasury will negotiate the price over the next ten business days.   Fiat will own 52% of Chrysler once the deal goes through.     

Sheldon Stone is a restructuring expert with Amherst Partners.  He says the negotiations should go smoothly, since the federal government is highly motivated to get out of the car business.

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Auto/Economy
11:18 pm
Sun May 22, 2011

Suppliers like working with Toyota best but Ford becoming more popular

Ford, GM and Chrysler are getting along with their suppliers better than they used to.  

But an annual study says the companies have a ways to go to catch up with their Japanese counterparts. 

John Henke is President of Planning Perspectives, which studies the working relationship between parts suppliers and their customers, the car companies. 

He says that relationship has long been adversarial for the Detroit Three, which means suppliers often don’t give them the best prices for parts, or the first crack at new technologies.

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Auto/Economy
6:03 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

Energy-efficient GM Orion plant ready to build fuel-efficient (and profitable) cars

Orion Assembly workers will be producing a new subcompact car for General Motors in about a month at the automaker's newly-renovated plant in Lake Orion. 

GM doesn’t plan to lose money on the Chevy Sonic, even though small cars are less profitable --which is why other major car companies make their smallest cars in lower-cost countries.   

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Environment
1:50 pm
Thu May 19, 2011

More corn in your gas tank?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says gas stations can now sell gasoline blended with 15% ethanol for all cars built in 2001 or after. Right now, when you fill up in Michigan, your gasoline has 10% ethanol.

The EPA says E15 gasoline will help reduce our need for foreign oil. Ethanol is made from plants like corn. The EPA only tested the effects of E15 on emissions and catalytic converters.

But ethanol is corrosive. Patrick Kelly is with the American Petroleum Institute.

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Politics
5:29 pm
Tue May 17, 2011

State asked to review Jackson, Allen Park's finances

The state is looking at requests to investigate the finances of two Michigan cities.

Jackson’s Mayor has asked for a state review of the city's books.  That's the first step towards the state appointing an Emergency Manager. 

Karen Dunigan says the city needs the state’s help, even though it has a balanced budget.    She says the budget covers payroll and not much else, and meanwhile, the city has $80-million in debt, with no plan to pay anything on the debt except the interest expenses. 

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Politics
12:15 am
Tue May 17, 2011

Vote to end oil subsidies must overcome filibuster

Congress is expected to vote this week on whether to take away 4-billion dollars in subsidies to oil companies. 

Oil company executives testified in Washington last week that they need tax subsidies to help them find new, American sources of oil. 

Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow says she doubts that’s the case.  She says the subsidies amount to 1% of the companies' profits, and it’s fair to ask them to contribute that amount to paying down the national debt. 

Stabenow says the testimony by the leaders of the oil companies shows they are “out of touch."

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Science/Medicine
7:58 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

University of Michigan loses stem cell researcher to Texas

One of the state’s leading stem cell researchers is leaving for a new job in Texas.

Sean Morrison was head of the Center for Stem Cell Biology at the University of Michigan.

He was also a vocal proponent of Proposal 2, which loosened restrictions on embryonic stem cell research in Michigan in 2008.

Morrison says the University is in a good position to continue important stem cell research without him.

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