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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China
11:53 pm
Sun October 23, 2011

Joint Institute program changes lives, in Ann Arbor, and in Shanghai

Instructor Kwee Yan  teaches Advanced Energy Solutions at the Joint Institute in Shanghai.  

He gives a lecture on the energy density of different fuels that's indistinguishable from a lecture that an engineering student might hear in Ann Arbor. 

"Some people say we are addicted to hydrocarbons, we are addicted to oil.  There are some technical reasons for that," says Kwee Yan, to a classroom of mostly male engineering students, just as in the U.S.

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Ford union contract approved, Chrysler next
10:19 am
Thu October 20, 2011

With Ford contract ratified, UAW turns to Chrysler

Staff Chrysler Media

Chrysler union workers vote this week on a tentative new contract. 

Ford workers approved their contract on Wednesday, 63-percent in favor to 37-percent against. 

But the contract was narrowly rejected at the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne.  Bob King is President of the union. 

"I don’t feel bad or in any way negative towards those workers because they voted against it," says King.  "I think they expressed honest, legitimate concerns.   I have the same concerns.   I don’t like a system where people on the same assembly line are making a different rate of pay."

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Ford in China
12:19 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Ford and the case of the Chinese official's hat

Want to know the real reason Ford isn’t one of the biggest car companies in China right now? 

Hats. 

That's right. David McKee says it’s because of hats. Here’s the story. 

In 1992, Ford Motor Company sent McKee to China to head a Ford components company. At the time, very few ordinary Chinese owned cars. Cars were a perk for bureaucrats. 

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EN-V could cut gridlock
11:50 pm
Tue October 11, 2011

Cute cars with a serious mission: cut smog and gridlock in megacities

Soaring rates of car ownership in China’s biggest cities are causing huge problems, from days-long traffic jams to choking smog. Even car companies say the trend is not sustainable. 

General Motors says one solution could be to reinvent the vehicle. Introducing the Miao, the Jiao, and the Shiao –  three cute, tiny cars with a serious mission.  

Car ownership in China has a dark side. Last year, a nine-day and a three-day construction-related traffic jam on the highway leading to Beijing were the most dramatic examples.

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Selling cars in China different than U.S.
10:59 am
Tue October 11, 2011

Detroit automakers shift approach to sell cars in China

General Motors now sells more cars in China that it does in the United States. In a few years, it’s likely that will be the case for Ford Motor Company, too.   

But selling cars in China takes a different approach than it does in the U.S.

There's much that's familiar at Shanghai Dongchang Fude Auto Sales and Service. There’s the piped in music -- the salespeople hanging out near the front entrance, waiting to grab the next walk-in customer., and the lineup of shiny new cars on the floor. 

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Auto/Economy
4:59 pm
Mon October 10, 2011

Chrysler and UAW to resume talks Tuesday morning

Contract talks between the United Auto Workers union and Chrysler resume Tuesday morning.  That’s after after negotiators were unable to reach a deal over the weekend. 

The UAW has asked its local presidents to come to Detroit on Wednesday.  That could mean an agreement is imminent. 

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Auto/Economy
11:43 am
Mon October 10, 2011

UAW and Chrysler temporarily halt contract talks

Top officials with the United Auto Workers are briefing local union leaders on contract talks with Chrysler today, after negotiators were unable to come to an agreement over the weekend.

A statement from Chrysler says talks ended this morning so the UAW could meet with its National Council.

Chrysler is the last of the Detroit Three to reach a tentative contract with the UAW.  General Motors workers last week ratified a new four-year contract by a margin of two-to-one.

Ford workers are voting this week on a new contract.

Both the contract at Ford and General Motors provide for a pay increase for the company's entry-level workers.

But Chrysler has many more of the entry-level workers than Ford and GM.  Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne has called the pay increase at Ford and GM "overly generous."

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Politics
7:17 am
Fri September 30, 2011

Travelogue: Governor Snyder's Trip to China (with photos)

I'm on assignment in China following Governor Snyder's trade mission, and I'm sharing my thoughts as I travel. Feel free to write me back in the comments below.

Nearing the end - Friday, September 30

The Governor's trade mission is coming to an end, and so is my trip to China.

I won't miss the smog and pollution, either in Shanghai (bad) or Beijing (worse).

But it has truly been too short a trip to get more than a glimpse of everything that is happening with China's economy, its auto industry, and its cultural and population shifts.

Frank Langfitt in Shanghai and Louisa Lim in Beijing surely have two of the biggest, most exciting beats in public radio.  This fly-in reporter leaves the country in their incredibly capable hands.

Adventure travel

My adventures with taxis continued.

I am starting to take this a little personally.

Arriving back in Shanghai from Beijing, I got in the long queue to get a taxi to my downtown Pudong hotel.

I decided I'd be a discerning and demanding customer this time around.  I rejected several taxis that had no seat belt in the back.  But when I found a taxi that was suitably equipped, and showed the driver the address to which I wanted to be taken, he shook his head, and drove up to grab the fellow who was behind me in the line.

The next taxi cab driver whose cab had seat belts did the same thing.  I asked  the airport employee who was in charge of the queue to help, but he spoke no English.  Nor did the first ten or so people in line.

Paying it forward

Finally, however, an angel arrived at the queue.  Deserine Lim, fluent English-speaker and rescuer of helpless American travelers.  She looked at my hotel address and explained that the taxi drivers didn't want me because it was too close, and they wanted a bigger fare.  Ouch.

Then, without my even thinking to ask, she suggested I split a cab with her.  She'd drop me off at my hotel, and continue on to her destination.

I'm not a Tennessee Williams fan for nothing.  I, too, have always relied on the kindness of strangers.  I got in the cab gratefully.

My rescuer is a native of Singapore, she told me, visiting Shanghai just for a day on business.  But she knows the town well, and told me what shops to go to near my hotel, what restaurants to haunt.  We discussed American politics.

When we arrived at my hotel, I paid the fare, and since it was clear her favor to me was going to cost her, both in terms of time and money, I tried to give her some money to cover the extra distance.

She adamantly refused to take it.

So, I shall have to content myself with paying it forward some day.

Ms. Lim is Assistant General Manager of OSIM, a global provider of personal, health and convenience products headquartered in Singapore.  OSIM is a co-owner of Brookstone, a company that provides such products in the U.S.

Thanks, Deserine.  You're a peach.

Next stops before home

Next stop for me:  Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I'll visit the Joint Institute between SJTU and the University of Michigan.

I also plan to go to a shopping mall with my SJTU interpreter, Paul (Kang Yiping) to ask people about transportation issues.

Then, another interview with a Ford China official, to learn more about the company's strategy to ride the next wave of demand for vehicles in the country.

And tomorrow morning, I'll be on a non-stop flight from Shanghai to Detroit.

They say the jet lag is a lot worse coming back.

Michigan Radio, don't call me.  I'll call you.

Arrived in Beijing - Wednesday, September 28:

I am in Beijing.

I arrived on the fourth consecutive day of a smog health advisory in the city.  Children are not supposed to play outdoors, and people with chronic health conditions are being urged to stay inside. Even if you are healthy, the smog is very irritating to your eyes and throat.

Michigan has never seemed cleaner. Even the worst Ozone Action Day in Michigan in August can't hold a candle to this.

Shanghai was windy while I was there earlier in the week. We need a good strong breeze to get this stuff out of the city, so people can breathe.

The Chinese government knows it has a potential crisis on its hands, as more people move into the cities, and more of them purchase cars.  That's why the government adopted a five year plan to vastly increase the number of electric cars in China.

The big problem with that is infrastructure.

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Trade Mission
5:25 pm
Thu September 29, 2011

Michigan Governor Snyder pleased with results of his first trade mission

Governor Rick Snyder said he will return to China in the next year, after completing his first trade mission in that country.

In the meantime, he said there’s a lot of follow-up to do in Michigan, to develop brand-new relationships with Chinese business leaders.

Governor Snyder spent a day in Beijing, the Chinese capital, and a day in Shanghai, the country’s international commerce center.

He said he was pleasantly surprised at how interested Chinese business leaders seem in closer business ties with Michigan. He said one possibility is getting Chinese mining companies, who want to expand overseas, to take a look at mining copper and other deposits in the U.P.

"It’s another export from our state, and the main thing is we do it in an environmentally conscious way and we put in the structure to do that," said Snyder.

Governor Snyder also highlighted his new “Global Michigan Initiative,” which he says should help create jobs in the state.

The initiative is designed to encourage talented immigrants to settle in Michigan.

The Global Michigan Initiative began two months ago.

While speaking in Shanghai, Snyder said the initiative will expand over the next few years to include cultural programs, more trade missions, and a visa program.

"There are a number of states that are unfortunately discouraging immigration, and I believe it should be the opposite, and the empirical support is there by encouraging immigration you actually create jobs for people in your community," said Snyder. " It’s a job creator."

The Governor is now on his way to South Korea, after a two-day stay in China.

This is Snyder’s first trade mission, and he says it was easier to make a pitch for the state’s positive business environment than he expected.

That’s because some of the Chinese business leaders he met with had already done some homework on Michigan.

"The most pleasant surprise was just the positive response of people in China and businesses in particular, that many of them are seriously looking at Michigan already as a good place to do business, and I was happy to see that they mentioned tax reform is a good reason for them to come, having a balanced budget is a major item," said Snyder.

The Governor will be in Seoul next, where he will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Governor of  Gyeonggi Province. The agreement states that Michigan and the Province will work together to establish trade.

Snyder will return to Michigan on Saturday.

Trade Mission
12:12 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Snyder: Tokyo visit welcome chance to show support

Gov. Rick Snyder meets with Takamichi Matsushita, president of Eco Research Institute of Tokyo (center). Pictured with Snyder is Carol Miller, right, of Midland Tomorrow, and ERI leadership officials.
Governor Snyder's office

Governor Rick Snyder has left Japan, and is now in China. Beijing is the second stop on his four-city Asian trade mission.

Snyder said the Tokyo visit was a welcome chance to show some support for Japan.

"Because they're still recovering from March 11thin terms of the tsunami and earthquake, and they're a great people, and they really appreciate the outpouring of support from Michigan after that happened," said Snyder.

Michigan already has about 500 Japanese companies doing business in the state.

Snyder said there are even more opportunities to increase trade with Japan. That's in part because some Japanese companies are considering an increase in overseas production after the tsunami.

Snyder goes to Shanghai next, then Seoul, before returning to Michigan on Saturday.

Snyder trade mission
12:57 am
Fri September 23, 2011

Snyder: First trade mission about building relationships

Governor Rick Snyder begins his first trade mission this weekend.  

The governor’s whirlwind schedule includes two days in Tokyo, one day in Beijing, one day in Shanghai, and one day in Seoul – not including two days of travel. 

The ultimate goal is creating more jobs in the state.  But the Governor has been careful to downplay expectations of new jobs right away. 

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GM, UAW reach tentative contract
12:21 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

GM, UAW to announce details of tentative contract on Tuesday

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King kicking off this year's talks with a ceremonial handshake.
General Motors

Contract talks between the United Auto Workers and Chrysler and Ford continue this week, after GM became the first to settle on the terms of a tentative agreement with the union, late Friday.

Officials with the union and the automaker will release details of the contract on Tuesday at an 11:00 a.m. press conference.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press report that the GM contract probably includes a signing bonus for workers if they agree to the deal, and a pay increase for entry-level workers.

Plus, GM is expected to agree to add more jobs in the U.S.

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Contract talks may be extended
12:10 am
Tue September 13, 2011

UAW contract talks to be extended at Ford Motor Company

The deadline for Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers’ union is fast approaching. 

But contract talks could be extended past the deadline of this Wednesday – especially at Ford. 

Ford is the only company that faces the possibility of a strike this time, because of agreements made during GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcies.

UAW President Bob King says a strike is not the goal.

But some union dissidents think a strike could happen.

Gary Walkowicz  is a bargaining committeeman at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn.

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Snyder trade mission
12:05 am
Tue September 13, 2011

Trip to China "long overdue," says Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

Governor Snyder will travel on his first trade mission later this month.  The Governor will travel to Japan, China, and Korea, to encourage Asian companies to invest and expand in Michigan. 

Snyder says the China part of his trip in particular is long overdue. 

Snyder will be the first Michigan governor to go to China since the Engler administration.

He says Chinese companies may not be aware that a lot has changed for the good in the state since then, like the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax, and a new approach to regulation.

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More older, fewer younger drivers
1:34 pm
Thu September 8, 2011

Older drivers on road increase as younger drivers decrease

A new study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute indicates that older drivers are hanging onto their licenses for a longer period of time - while the number of young people with drivers' licenses is falling.

Both trends have safety implications.

Eighty percent of 18-year-olds had a driver's license in 1983.  That number had fallen to 65 percent by 2008.

Younger drivers tend to have more accidents.  So fewer of them who drive could make the nation's roads safer.

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August car sales
11:25 am
Fri September 2, 2011

August auto sales weather bad economic news

U.S. auto sales were a bright spot in a sea of bad economic news in August.  Most companies reported increases from the same month a year ago. 

Consumer sentiment in August fell to its lowest level since November 2007, stock markets dove, and fears of a double-dip recession increased. 

Those conditions usually flatten U.S. vehicle sales.

Yet car sales rode the storm, with sales at Chrysler  up 30%, GM,  up 18% and Ford,  up 11%. 

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Flu shots mandatory
2:27 pm
Wed August 31, 2011

More hospitals require flu shots as condition of employment

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

More hospitals in Michigan are requiring all their employees to get flu shots this year.

Last year, St. Joseph Mercy Hospital made flu shots for all employees mandatory for the first time.

Lakshmi Halasyamani is the Chief Medical Officer for the hospital.

She says some employees were upset about the requirement – but most of them came around after hearing the reasons for the new policy.

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Auto
1:17 pm
Fri August 26, 2011

Move over, Detroit Auto Show? Here comes "The Battery Show."

Michigan already has the North American International Auto Show.  

This year, the state will also host The Battery Show.  Michigan lured the advanced lithium-ion battery trade show from California. 

Of course, this is a trade show, not a consumer show, so unless you have an unusual interest in lithium-ion chemistries, you might want to stick to the Detroit Auto Show for now. 

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Cadillac Escalade most targeted by thieves
12:00 am
Thu August 25, 2011

And the most stolen vehicle is...(tear envelope)... "the Cadillac Escalade"

The Cadillac Escalade is the number one target of thieves, according to an annual study by the Highway Loss Data Institute.

The Escalade has been in the top ten for many years in a row.

Matt Moore of the Institute says his theory is, thieves like to take vehicles that are associated with high status and glamour.

"There’s probably no other vehicle which is more likely to be featured or seen when you’re watching television and see coverage of a professional athlete or actor or movie star," says Moore.

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Detroit library to conserve essentials
5:01 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Detroit Public Library seeks to preserve its most essential services

The Detroit Public Library is forming a task force to figure out how to continue to provide its most essential services to residents.

The library laid off 79 staff this spring due to revenue shortfalls. 

Now, six of its branches may close because of the staffing cuts.

Executive Director Jo Anne Mundowney says revenues will likely continue to fall.  Ninety percent of the library's revenue comes from property taxes, which are declining.

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