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
1:13 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Car companies that innovate have the edge, says study

The future of "Look, ma, no hands!"
Ford Motor Company

It's a car-eat-car world out there, and Boston Consulting Group says the competition is only going to get more fierce.

BCG's new study finds that companies that are more innovative will have an important competitive advantage. 

Analyst Xavier Mosquet says a majority of people say they want to buy a car from a company they perceive as innovative.

But, it may not be easy to meet their expectations. 

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Auto
9:05 am
Tue January 14, 2014

Ford takes calculated risk with aluminum F-150

One of the F150s owned by Plantwise at site of controlled burn.
David Mindell

Ford Motor Company revealed a groundbreaking change for its top-selling F-150 truck at the North American International Auto Show on Monday. The new truck will have a body made mostly of aluminum instead of steel.

Ford is taking the calculated risk to retain its crown as the number one seller of pickups in the world.

Ford is banking on the loyalty of F-150 owners like David Mindell, CEO of Plantwise, a company that specializes in native plant landscaping and wetlands restoration.

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F-150
9:42 am
Mon January 13, 2014

NAIAS: New F-150 with aluminum will be tough and strong, says Ford

New Ford F-150
media.ford.com

In a calculated risk meant to ensure Ford remains the leader in full-size pickups – and to meet upcoming truck fuel economy standards – the Dearborn automaker revealed a new F-150 that will shed about 700 pounds of its weight by switching much of the body to aluminum.

The company stresses that the frame of the truck will remain high-strength steel, but, "pound for pound, aluminum is stronger than steel," Ford CEO Alan Mulally told reporters after the event, which featured several F-150s bursting through a paper barrier designed to look like a concrete wall.

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Health
4:58 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Healthy adults landing in hospitals from H1N1 flu this year

If you hate flu shots...you can get a nasal spray vaccine
Douglas Jordan, M.A. Centers for Disease Control

The same flu strain that caused the 2009 flu pandemic is back again this year.

Angela Minicuci  is a spokesperson for the state Department of Community Health.

She says everyone should be protected from H1N1, not just those considered high-risk, like the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic illnesses.

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Weather
6:14 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

Before you call the furnace repair person, check outside

Utility companies say they're getting lots of calls about furnaces not working -- and many are related to the deep snow.

Scott Bartholomew is with Consumers Energy.

He says high efficiency furnaces have fresh air PVC intake pipes on the outside of the home.

"What happens is the snow gets packed up in it, and it will block off the intake," says Bartholomew, "or it will suck up some snow in there -- which will trip off the pressure switches and doesn't allow the furnace to come on."

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Economy
5:55 pm
Mon January 6, 2014

2014 holds economic promise, caution, for Michigan

Furniture maker
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Michigan's primary industry, the auto industry, had a boom year in 2013.  That rapid growth is expected to slow in 2014, according to Robert Dye, an economist with Comerica Bank.

So, there may not be as many auto jobs created.

But, Dye notes that West Michigan's furniture industry could experience a boom.

"As we generate more jobs nationwide, companies will start reinvesting back into their office space," says Dye.  "And so I do expect improving conditions for furniture manufacturers in Michigan."

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Transportation
5:45 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Before you start that snow blower, read this

Lots of snow? Fire up the old snowblower - with fresh gas
Outdoor Power Equipment Institute

Some people who left gasoline in their snow blower last winter, and fired it up without refueling this winter, are finding out that was a mistake.

Almost all gasoline sold in Michigan has 10% ethanol in it. That gas, called E-10, destabilizes after a month. So firing up a small engine with old gas can damage the engine. 

Kris Kiser is president of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute. He says people should drain the old gas and replace it with new.

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Auto
6:45 pm
Wed January 1, 2014

Fiat to own 100% of Chrysler by January 20

Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat and Chrysler
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Fiat began the new year with a pretty big announcement: It will soon have full ownership of Chrysler.

The Italian automaker owns 59% of Chrysler, and will buy the 41% stake owned by the VEBA -- a trust set up to pay for union retiree health care -- by January 20.

The company will pay $3.65 billion. The company will also pay the VEBA an additional $700 million, split into four equal payments, made over the next four years.

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Politics & Government
6:27 pm
Tue December 31, 2013

Ann Arbor homeless want warming center to open doors at 40, not 10, degrees

Homeless and advocates at rally
Tracy Samilton Michigan Radio

A group of Ann Arbor homeless people and supporters marched downtown on New Year's Eve, asking the city to change its policy for the Delonis Center on Huron Street.

The warming shelter at the center is open at night -- but during the day, it opens only when it is 10 degrees, including wind chill, or colder.

"At 30 degrees you have a risk of frostbite," says Ryan Sample, "and at 45 (degrees), you have a risk of hypothermia with wet clothes."

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Environment & Science
9:12 pm
Sun December 29, 2013

Power back for Consumers Energy, DTE customers, but some LBWL customers still wait

Finally. 

The lights are back on, and the heat is warming the house, for the roughly 670,000 Consumers Energy and DTE customers who lost electricity from a severe ice storm.

"It was one of the worst storms in our history," says Debra Dodd of Consumers Energy.

Heavy ice brought down hundreds of lines, and in some cases, pulled the poles down with it.

Dodd says customers were patient, understanding and grateful to the line crews, who worked 16-hour days to repair the damage.

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Ice storm
3:46 pm
Thu December 26, 2013

As new ice storm worries loom, customers find ways to cope

This was Christmas dinner at the Putnam house
Judy Putnam

There are times when warm weather is not a good thing, and this is one such time.

Brian Wheeler is with Consumers Energy.  He says the severe ice storm that struck a big portion of the state early Sunday left extremely heavy ice on the trees.

"The ice has been pushing trees and tree limbs into different positions," says Wheeler.  "A rapid melt could cause them to snap back into a different position pretty quickly too, and as they move suddenly, they could interfere with power lines yet again."

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Ice storm
5:51 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Ice storm followed by high winds could mean more bad news

Power lines
Christoper Sessums Flickr

High winds are forecast for Wednesday.

And that could slow down the work to restore power to thousands of people after the weekend's severe ice storm.

The storm's path went through Lansing, Owosso and Flint.

Mary Palkovich is with Consumers Energy.

"This is the worst storm that Consumers Energy has had during Christmas week in its 120 year history," says Palkovich.  "It's unprecedented."

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Ice storm
5:42 pm
Tue December 24, 2013

Shelters trying to make Christmas bright for people without heat

digging out
Mark Brush Michigan Radio

Several hundred people across the state may be spending Christmas in an emergency shelter, after a severe ice storm on Saturday.

Dick Beauchamp is with the Red Cross in Genessee County.

The agency turned the second floor of its Flint office into a shelter.

About 50 people were there as of Tuesday morning.

Beauchamp said he expects more to show up.

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Auto
8:09 pm
Mon December 9, 2013

GM is 'Government Motors' no more

GM headquarters - Renaissance Center
John F. Martin Creative Commons

Four years after facing the possibility of its own demise, General Motors is free of the controversial government ownership that saved the Detroit automaker in 2009.

"It was an unambiguous success," says Steven Rattner, who headed the Obama Administration's Auto Task Force.

The task force shepherded GM through an unprecedented 42-day bankruptcy.

The U.S. Treasury announced Monday it had sold the last of its stock in GM, at a loss of $10.5 billion.

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Auto
4:53 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Anticipation, anxiety as Ford nears Mustang reveal

Mustang club member
Felix Henrichs

On Thursday,  Ford Motor Company will pull the veil off the redesigned Mustang. For the first time in its nearly 50-year history, the iconic pony car will be sold in every region of the world.

Talk to just about any Mustang owner, and you'll get a story about how their love affair with the car began.

Laura Slider of Ann Arbor says she's wanted one ever since she was fifteen, the day a red Mustang appeared in the driveway across the street.

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Sports
4:35 pm
Sat November 30, 2013

Michigan's ski industry is expecting a good year because of the early cold weather

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

People in Michigan's ski industry are happy about the early cold weather.

Most of Michigan's ski hills are open already.

Mickey McWilliams is Executive Director of the Michigan Snow Sports Industries Association.   She says ski resorts can make snow when the temperature is slightly above 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

“That's kind of the magic number,” says McWilliams, “If you look at your thermometer outside, and its 28, you know that there's snow on our slopes.”

McWilliams says most Michigan skiers do most of their skiing in-state.

Auto
4:25 pm
Fri November 29, 2013

There's 1 month left to 2013, but its already been a good year for Detroit's Big 3

GM

Auto companies report November's auto sales next week.

The news should be good, especially for Ford, Chrysler and Detroit.

Michelle Krebs is an analyst with Edmunds.com. She says the Detroit Three have had a great year so far, with car sales leading the way.   

“But they also are the biggest seller of trucks,” says Krebs, “People are buying big trucks again like they haven't in a long time.

Krebs says GM's did better this year than she expected.  She adds that’s especially true since Consumer Reports called the new Impala the "best sedan in the U.S."

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Arts & Culture
12:40 pm
Mon November 25, 2013

Pere Marquette 1225 back on the rails after four years

Maiden run of refurbished Pere Marquette 1225
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

The historic steam locomotive that inspired the movie, "Polar Express" is back on the rails after four years of renovations.

The effort took a lot of steel, four thousand bolts, a million dollars, and countless volunteer labor hours.

The massive Pere Marquette 1225 in Owosso is one of a few remaining operable steam engines of its size.

Aarne Frobom is President of the Board of Directors for the Steam Railroading Institute. He says the train is a living history lesson.

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Auto
1:50 pm
Wed November 13, 2013

Germans, Americans love RVing for same reasons

Dagmar Soulte and Heiko Seule, caravaning by the Rhine
Tracy Samilton

Hitting the open road in an RV may seem as American as apple pie -- but in Germany, the activity known as "caravaning" is  -- well, as German as apple strudel.

Thousands of caravanners make their vacation pilgrimage to the Rhine River every year, a favorite destination. 

Whether it's a vineyard that's set aside semi-permanent places for customers who own RVs and trailers, or an overnight RV campsite that is little more than a parking lot - all boast a million dollar view, at a bargain price.

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Auto
10:36 am
Tue November 12, 2013

Three-wheeled car buyers won't have to take motorcycle test

Elio Motors founder Paul Elio with his creation
Elio Motors

The state legislature has approved a bill to change Michigan's motorcycle laws.  The change will let Elio (pronounced EE-lee-oh) Motors sell a three-wheeled car in the state, without requiring buyers to take a motorcycle safety test, known as a motorcycle endorsement.

The "Elio" is technically a motorcycle because it has three wheels and weighs less than 1,600 pounds. Nonetheless, it is a car, with car safety features like airbags.

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