WUOMFM

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. 

While still the best-selling sedan in U.S., Toyota Camry sales dropped 10% in 2016.
Toyota

In 2015, for the first time ever, compact SUVs outsold sedans in the U.S.

Consumers continued to ditch sedans for SUVs this year. For example, while still the best-selling sedan in the U.S., sales of the Toyota Camry dropped ten percent in 2016. 

Sales of other formerly popular sedans plummeted even further. 

Michelle Krebs of Autotrader says gas prices remain low, and SUVs are a lot more fuel efficient than they used to be.

DTE Energy / via Twitter

The Michigan Environmental Council says energy legislation signed into law by Governor Snyder on Wednesday is a vast improvement over earlier versions.

The initial package proposed to eliminate Michigan's 10% renewable energy mandate, as well as eliminate a mandate to reduce electricity demand by one percent per year.

Instead, after months of negotiations, the renewable mandate was boosted, to 15% by the year 2021, and electric utilities must still reduce demand by at least one percent a year.

flickr.com

The Arab American Civil Rights League claims Western Union is discriminating against customers based on their religion and country of origin.

Director Rula Aoun says the company refused service to Dearborn resident and long-time Western Union customer Haidar Abdallah. 

He wanted to send money to the West Bank in Palestine.  Aoun says the amount was not suspicious.

"This was just a couple hundred dollars, just to support his wife and children," says Aoun.

car gear shift
Wikimedia Commons / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Federal auto safety regulators have launched an investigation into the safety of some of Fiat Chrysler's newer model trucks and SUVs.

The investigation involves about a million 2013 to 2016 model year Ram pickups and 2014 to 2016 Dodge Durango SUVs. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The sub-zero temperatures across the state of Michigan this morning do not mean that global warming isn't real. 

Jeff Masters, Director of Meteorology for Weather Underground, is explaining this a lot these days.  He says the long-term trend is clearly a warming planet.  But global warming doesn't mean 'no more winter.'

"The earth is still tilted on its axis," says Masters, "which means we get unequal heating of the poles, and that causes the seasons, and the seasons haven't gone away.  We still expect cold weather, just less of it."

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Chrysler will provide about a hundred hybrid minivans for a pilot project with Waymo - Google's self-driving car subsidiary. 

The Chrysler-Waymo partnership follows GM's announcement that it will test self-driving Chevy Bolts in metro Detroit. 

Kelley Blue Book's Karl Brauer says Chrysler's minivans will let Waymo test self-driving vehicles with larger groups of people.  They could serve as mini-buses on campuses, for example.  

Brauer says it's been a big year for projects involving autonomous vehicles.

Map shows the extent of the underground 1,4 dioxane plume under Ann Arbor.
SCIO RESIDENTS FOR SAFE WATER

A lawsuit to force a cleanup of Ann Arbor's contaminated water appears to have set a new precedent. The judge allowed a watershed advocacy group to become one of the plaintiffs. That's despite both the polluter and the state attorney general arguing against it.

The Huron River Watershed Council says no one in the lawsuit was advocating for the river itself, including aquatic life and the risk to people swimming, fishing and boating.

Empty classroom
Motown31 / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

State officials are crediting a new "early warning" law for reducing the number of school districts in fiscal crisis.

In 2015, 41 districts had budget deficits; this year, only 27 have deficits.

State Treasurer Nick Khouri says the state can now intervene before a district is in a serious financial situation.

"The easiest thing to do is to deny a problem for years and years until it's too late to solve," says Khouri, "so part of this process is to make sure that these issues are brought up early."

General Motors

General Motors' CEO Mary Barra announced Thursday that the automaker will be testing autonomous vehicles on the streets of Detroit soon.

Self-driving Chevy Bolts are already being tested in California and Arizona.  The Bolt is GM's new long-range electric car.

Michigan's bad weather makes it ideal for the next place to test how safe and reliable self-driving cars can be, said Barra – on a day when the high temperature reached 16 degrees.

"This will be our main location for cold weather, as well as winter driving conditions," she said.

flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a proposed rule that would require vehicle-to-vehicle technology, or V2V, to be standard on all cars.

There's a 90-day public comment on the proposal.

V2V technology allows cars to send wi-fi signals to each other, and another feature, automatic braking –which U.S. automakers have already voluntarily agreed to make standard – prevents crashes based on the signals. 

General Motors

A bill to give a tax break to companies that contract manufacturing work for other companies is being introduced in the U.S. Senate. 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow says Section 199 of the tax code is one of the largest tax incentives available to boost domestic manufacturing.  It gives manufacturing activities a 9% tax deduction. 

But the law is unclear whether a company that manufacturers something for another company should also get the deduction.  A bill co-sponsored by Stabenow and Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman makes it clear that it should. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan's Palisades nuclear power plant is shutting down.

Entergy Corporation, the owner, made the decision after Consumers Energy, which had been purchasing the electricity from Palisades, ended its contract with Entergy early.

"The contract....is higher than market," says Consumers' Dan Bishop.  "It's more expensive than other sources in the market, so agreeing to end that contract early could save Consumers Energy electric customers as much as $172 million."

Consumers will also pay Entergy $172 million for the early termination of the contract.

Ballots being prepared for the recount in Ingham County.
Rick Pluta / MPRN

The Detroit News reports that nearly a third of the precincts in Wayne County - most of them in Detroit - may not be able to be recounted in the presidential recount which began Monday in Michigan, due to broken machines and mistakes by poll workers.

Wayne County starts its recount on Tuesday. From the News:

“It’s not good,” conceded Daniel Baxter, elections director for the city of Detroit.

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade says federal prosecutions of hate crimes will remain a priority in Michigan - even if she herself is replaced by a new administration.

McQuade is U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

She hopes to reassure people who may fear that the government will abandon the prosecution of hate crimes, due the tone of the discourse during the presidential campaign.

wikimedia commons

It's going to take more time and work than originally expected to fix a methane problem at an old Kent County landfill. 

In August, county officials discovered during routine tests that the methane from a landfill next door to the Kentwood City Office Building was migrating outside its perimeter.

Methane is a flammable gas created by the decomposition of organic matter.

Director of Public Works Darwin Baas says the subsequent investigation revealed a surprising amount of methane being produced.

The Packard Plant Project

If you have driven past the derelict Packard Plant in Detroit recently -- that eyesore beloved of Detroit "ruin porn" photographers -- you probably noticed something is different.

Most of the graffiti is gone.

And more improvements for the massive east Detroit property are on the way. Owners say the Packard Plant Project will be the largest historic renovation in North American history - and the third largest globally.

Computer rendering of overpasses at American Center for Mobility.
State of Michigan

Willow Run is more than 330 acres of crumbling concrete and weeds today. 

But the site of the B-24 bomber assembly plant during World War II will soon be transformed  into miles of roads, highways, overpasses, and nighttime lighting, where the self-driving and connected cars of the future will be developed and tested. 

At the groundbreaking Monday, Governor Rick Snyder said the project will keep Michigan in the driver's seat as the world changes.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

The state Department of Environmental Quality has issued an emergency rule establishing a stricter cleanup criteria for 1,4 dioxane, a highly carcinogenic chemical that has polluted Ann Arbor's groundwater for decades.

The plume of contaminated water has been slowly moving in all directions, including towards the Huron River.  It's feared that eventually the contamination could reach Barton Pond, the source of the city's drinking water.

U.S. Attorney

A Detroit immigration attorney accused of bribing a federal special agent is also being accused of defrauding former clients.

Attorney Brad Thomson represents some of Charles Busse's former clients. He says Busse made promises he couldn't keep, filed unnecessary documents, and that some people were deported to their home countries because of his mistakes.

Thomson says given the federal charges facing Busse, there may not be much money left over for his clients, and it may be difficult or impossible to reopen some deported immigrants' cases.

Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company made $1 billion during the third quarter, down $1.2 billion from its record third quarter earnings last year.

The automaker says the lower profit was driven primarily by three things:

Scio Residents for Safe Water

After waiting three years for the state to issue a stricter cleanup standard for the carcinogen 1,4 dioxane, Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township are done.

The two townships, along with the Sierra Club of Huron Valley, will jointly file a petition next month requesting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a preliminary assessment for a plume of contaminated groundwater to become a federal Superfund site.

the plume, 1,4 dioxane
http://www.ewashtenaw.org/government/departments/environmental_health/card / Washtenaw County

A frustrated Ann Arbor City Council wants to force a faster cleanup of a plume of groundwater contaminated with 1,4 dioxane.

That's after the chemical was found in surface water near Slauson Middle School.
The contaminated water is slowly spreading under the city of Ann Arbor as well as Ann Arbor Township and Scio Township.  

City leaders say the polluter, Pall Gelman, needs to do a lot more to clean it up.

DOJ

The U.S. Justice Department has charged two people in Detroit with taking bribes in order to defer the deportations of immigrants. 

The government says Detroit attorney Charles Busse took bribes from Iraqi, Mexican, and Albanian immigrants facing deportation, and then paid bribes to Clifton Divers, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The scheme had Divers claiming the clients were confidential government informants in order to get the deportations deferred. 

The crimes allegedly took place between 2009 and 2015.

hands
cliparts

The number of people diagnosed with chlamydia rose 6.4% in Michigan from 2014 to 2015.  In all, there were 47,702 cases of chlamydia last year.

Gonorrhea cases rose 9.8%, with 10,615 people being infected.

But the increase probably doesn't mean that more people are catching STDs, says Katie McComber with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Chloroform was detected in the groundwater at about 5 parts per billion in some tests in Waterworks Park in Ann Arbor.
user UnagiUnagi / Google Maps

State officials have a new water contamination investigation on their hands: what is the source of newly-discovered contaminants found in the groundwater near Slauson Middle School in Ann Arbor?

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality discovered the chemicals trichloroethane and chloroform there after conducting tests for a different chemical - 1,4 dioxane. 

The 1,4 dioxane is a known contaminant from the chemical company Pall-Gelman. The plume of 1,4 dioxane is slowly moving underneath Ann Arbor towards the Huron River.

teenage driver
flickr.com

In the past decade, fatal car crashes for teen drivers ages 18 to 20 haven't declined as much as those for younger teens, ages 15 to 17.

That's according to a study commissioned by Ford Safe Driving for Life, a program to teach teens to be safer drivers.

Jim Graham is Manager of the program.  He says the problem appears to be that more teens are waiting until they are 18 or older to get their license.

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

At long last, the foreclosure crisis is over.

That's according to Daryn Blumquist, Senior Vice President of Attom Data Solutions.  Blumquist says in Michigan, September saw the lowest foreclosure activity since December, 2005. 

Foreclosure activity plummeted 41% from September of 2015.

Bank foreclosures are also no longer being delayed due to a backlog. Blumquist says taking a long time to foreclose caused unintended problems for neighborhoods.

wikipedia/creative commons

Self-driving cars, taxis and buses could pose a threat to the viability of commuter trains and subways,  according to a study by the Boston Consulting Group. 

Nicholas Lang of BCG estimates between a third to to half of rail passengers could migrate to self-driving transportation by the year 2040.

One example of how this could happen:  imagine automated mini-buses that seat up to 15 people.  Lang thinks they could be more comfortable, convenient and cheaper than existing public transportation.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Many minority students remain stunned, hurt, and angry, days after racist flyers were found in two buildings on the University of Michigan campus.

One of the flyers called on "Euro-Americans" to "Be White" and "stop living in fear."

Another flyer gave racist reasons why white women should not date black men.

University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel called a "Community Conversation" meeting on Sunday afternoon to let people express their feelings and thoughts.

Michigan Governor's office

Lt. Governor Brian Calley is returning from a seven-day trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland.

It's the Snyder administration's first-ever trade mission to the U.K. and Ireland. 

Calley says his focus was on discussing Michigan's wealth of talent in engineering, IT, and skilled trades.  The state no longer offers long-term tax breaks to lure foreign businesses, but Calley says that kind of incentive isn't really necessary.

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