Tracy Samilton

Auto Reporter/Producer

Tracy Samilton covers the auto industry, business, and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio.   She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly "bitten by the radio bug," and never recovered.  She took over the auto beat in January, 2009, just a few months before Chrysler and General Motors filed for bankruptcy.  Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio.   Her coverage of Michigan's Detroit Three automakers has taken her as far as Germany, and China. 

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature.
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Fiat Chrysler says it has a software remedy available to customers, after two hacking experts took remote control of a Jeep Cherokee using the Internet.

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek used the Jeep's UConnect system to gain access to the moving vehicle, which was being operated by WIRED's Andy Greenberg.

Clement Bucco-Lechat / Wikimedia/creative commons

It's getting harder and harder to find a car that's worth hating.

For 20 years, the J.D. Power APEAL study has scored brands and vehicles on a scale of 1,000 to determine how gratifying they are to own and drive.

Renee Stephens, V.P. of U.S. automotive quality, says two decades ago, it wasn't unusual for some brands and cars to score in the mid 500's.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan celebrates the completion of "MCity" in a grand opening ceremony on Monday.

MCity is a 32-acre autonomous vehicle test track, designed to resemble a real city and suburb, with stoplights, artificial pedestrians that can be launched suddenly in front of a driverless car, and movable buildings.

Atlanta Jeep Ram Dodge

Earlier this year, Fiat and Chrysler cars ranked at the very bottom of  the 2015 Initial Quality Survey by J.D. Power.

That survey rates brands based on how many problems new car owners experienced in the first 90 days of ownership.

Now, turn that survey on its head, and you'll basically have the results of the 2015 Total Quality Index by Strategic Vision.

Fiat Chrysler was the number-one automaker in the survey, with six vehicles that were rated best for total quality:  The Fiat 500, Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Durango, and Ram truck.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

I sure would.

"Mean Tweets" is a popular segment on the Jimmy Kimmel late-night TV show.

Kimmel has convinced famous movie stars and even the president of the United States to read mean tweets about themselves in front of a camera.

Now, John Dingell has a bet with his wife, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, that she can't get 5,000 Twitter followers by Sunday.

But if she does, he'll read mean tweets about himself, Jimmy Kimmel-style, and post the video online.

James Fassinger Stillscenes

U.S. Senator Gary Peters, D-Michigan, has introduced legislation with Illinois Senator Dick Durbin to require a study of the health effects of petroleum coke, along with best practices for storage and disposal.

Peters says both Chicago and Detroit have had problems with open piles of pet coke, which is a byproduct of processing heavy tar sands oil.

Paula Friedrich / Michigan Radio

From the very beginnings of the modern auto industry, working on an assembly line has been physically demanding, and dangerous. 

But ergonomics experts at Ford Motor Company say an assembly line worker today experiences a lot less physical strain and stress – and is a lot less likely to be injured on the job – in part because of advanced ergonomics tools.

At Ford's new virtual ergonomics lab in Dearborn, 23 infrared cameras can capture every movement of an employee wearing special motion-capture markers. 

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company will build the new Lincoln Continental at its Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant, which currently builds the Mustang and Fusion.

Ford did not provide details, including whether there would be additional hires. Flat Rock has about 3,100 employees now.

Lincoln is bringing back the Continental name for its new flagship sedan, expected in 2016. 

Fiat Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is still wrangling over what to do with the new Wrangler.

The current Wrangler is made in Toledo. 

It could be a victim of its own success.

Fiat Chrysler

Is there trouble in store for Fiat Chrysler come September?

Some analysts believe so, saying the automaker faces the greatest risk of a strike by fed up Tier 2 workers at Chrysler.

Tier 2 workers make roughly half the pay of the higher-seniority Tier 1 workers – while doing the same job.

Tier 2 workers also get a lower level of benefits, and they do not get health insurance upon retirement.

Both union leaders and Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne agree that it's unfair.

Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.
Dwight Burdette / wikimedia commons

Ford is moving production of the Focus and C-Max out of the Michigan Assembly plant in Wayne by 2018. 

The automaker isn't saying where the Focus and C-Max will go, but it's likely to be Mexico. 

The industry trend is to build less profitable small cars there because of Mexico's lower labor costs. 

In a statement, Ford says "We actively are pursuing future vehicle alternatives to produce at Michigan Assembly and will discuss this issue with UAW leadership as part of the upcoming negotiations." 

Spectrum Health

It's rarely easy making the transition from the military to a career in the civilian world.

Jamie Hamming knows that.  She was an Army combat medic between 1990 and 1995.  Her tours included stints in Korea and Somalia.

Staff Sgt Brandon Aird 173rd ABCT PAO - Flickr
MarsRover/Wikireporter / Creative Commons

Hundreds of employees at Bates Footwear in Big Rapids, Michigan manufacture shoes and boots for the general public and the military.

But the jobs could be at risk because of a federal rule change.

The change means Bates Footwear can no longer bid on military contracts set aside for small businesses - because Bates Footwear is now considered part of the larger corporation that owns it - Wolverine Worldwide.

Flickr user St Stev / Flickr

Pity the lowly wood pallet. Nobody thinks about it. But it does so much work.

Most merchandise in supermarkets and big box stores is shipped on wood pallets. There are roughly two billion wood pallets circulating in the U.S.

Image from the Collections of The Henry Ford

Updated: 8:16 pm 6/28/15

The attorney representing a software firm suing Ford Motor Company is taking the complaint on the road, complete with gimmicks to get media attention.

Lanny Davis will hold a press conference in Detroit next month in front of a fake wall with a hole punched in it, to represent his claim that Ford breached a firewall intended to protect Versata's intellectual property.

A supercharger station in Monterey, California. Tesla is bringing two more supercharging stations to Michigan.
Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Michigan will have two new battery supercharging stations by the end of the summer courtesy of Tesla Motors.

Tesla's Model S electric car gets up to 300 miles on a single charge. It normally takes several hours to charge the car. But a "supercharger"shortens the charging time to 20 to 30 minutes, according to Tesla spokeswoman Alexia Georgeson. 

When Kia first began selling its cars in the U.S. in 1995, they sold mainly because they were cheap. Quality and reliability? Not exactly a Kia car's forte'.

That has changed, if this year's J.D. Power Initial Quality Study is any indication. Kia owners reported fewer problems in the first 90 days of ownership than any other brand, save No. 1 Porsche.

In another flip-flop, many Japanese brands fell below the industry average for the first time since J.D. Power began tracking initial quality 29 years ago.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Updated:  10:23 am 6-17-15

Tesla's foray into advanced battery manufacturing in the U.S. is apparently no threat to advanced battery manufacturer LG Chem of Korea.

Tesla, with the help of partner Panasonic, is building a massive lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in Nevada.

wikipedia / public domain

Ford Motor Company will return to Le Mans racing after a hiatus of 46 years.

The Dearborn automaker will enter a racing version of its new GT Supercar in the grueling endurance race.

"This vehicle, really from the very beginning, was born to race," said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford at a press conference held on the grounds of the famous circuit in France. 

Ford, the great-grandson of Henry Ford, said watching the 1966 Le Mans - when Ford cars placed first, second and third - was one of the most exciting memories he has from childhood.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
Dave Pinter / flickr

General Motors CEO Mary Barra confirmed she received an email from Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggesting that the two companies merge.

She says the email was vetted by her executive team and GM's Board of Directors.

And the answer to the suggestion was "no."

Marchionne says the global auto industry needs to consolidate to realize better economies of scale, but Barra says GM is doing just fine on its own in that regard.

Kenneth Spencer / Flickr

DTE Energy and Consumers Energy have energy efficiency programs for just about everyone.

Individuals can apply for free energy audits that include the installation of energy-saving light bulbs.

Most small businesses can use the programs to offset the cost of installing more efficient lighting systems.  Manufacturers have access to the programs, too.

Federal regulators will require trucks and buses to have electronic stability control.
user Nic Redhead / Flickr/

If you have a relatively new car, you have an important safety feature called electronic stability control in it.  But that big bus or heavy truck next to you on the road?  It probably doesn't. 

This week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finalized a rule that will change that.

Amanda Mills, USCDCP / Public domain

More than 10,000 people died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2013.

And a large number of those accidents involve  drivers who had never been stopped for driving under the influence before.

New technologies are being developed that have the potential to eliminate many of those accidents, if widely adopted. One version uses touch sensors on the wheel. Another analyzes the air in the cabin.

Tracy Samilton

It's the way of politics.

GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz delivered a well-received speech before a packed crowd at the Livingston County GOP Lincoln Dinner in Howell, Michigan on Wednesday.

But most people will only hear about the joke he made at Joe Biden's expense. 

Washtenaw County Clerk

Washtenaw County says its new county identification card will help a lot of people, like homeless, transgender, and undocumented residents.

But it's available to everyone, and one of its main champions, Yousef Rabhi, Vice Chairman of the Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners, says he plans to get one.

Wikimedia/creative commons

There will be something missing from the state's 80 county fairs and 4-H exhibitions this year.

Michigan's State Veterinarian, James Averill, has banned showings of chickens and other birds as a precaution, in response to the  epidemic of avian flu that's caused the deaths of tens of millions of birds in other states like Iowa.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A House committee will take up bills tomorrow that pay for roads partly with funds from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

Doug Rothwell of Business Leaders for Michigan says the legislature should look elsewhere for the money.

The economy in China may be slowing, but Ford says its plans for future sales increases are still on track.

Ford of China head Dave Schock says the days of "frantic" double-digit GDP growth are likely over. But he says the government plans to transition the economy to a 7% rate of growth, which means plenty of opportunities to increase car sales. 

Ford is pinning its hopes on so-called Tier 3 through Tier 6 cities in China. Those are small to mid-sized cities (a small city in China can still have several million residents.) 

GM hopes the Chevy Bolt will make long range electric cars affordable.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Electric cars can't compete on price or range with gas-burning cars, yet. But they're getting closer, according to a new study from Lux Research, because of the work being done by advanced battery manufacturers.

Analyst Cosmin Laslau says advanced lithium ion batteries could hit a price target of $172 per kilowatt hour by the year 2025. That's a 35% reduction from the current price.

BNU Free Documentation License
Rsheram / Wikipedia

The Michigan Supreme Court says ignition interlocks are helping to keep convicted drunk drivers from repeating the offense of driving while intoxicated.

Michigan has 41 specialized DWI/sobriety courts, which aim to help drunk drivers stay sober, stay out of jail, and stay in their jobs, because they can still drive to work.