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. 

user rob zand / Flickr

Another city that gets its water from Detroit is talking about pulling out of the system.  

Greg Theokus  is Mayor Pro Tem of Grosse Pointe Park.

He says Detroit's water is already too expensive.

Grosse Pointe Park pays $1.5 million now for its water. That's up from $600,000 ten years ago.

Theokus says Grosse Pointe Park may have no choice, if Detroit water rates skyrocket due to the bankruptcy.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Another legal obstacle to building a new international bridge in Detroit has been swept away. 

An appeals court panel on Friday struck down challenges made by the Ambassador Bridge's owner and some minority community groups. 

The groups said the Federal Highway Administration's decision to build a new public-private bridge in the downriver community of Delray was arbitrary – and officials deferred too much to Canada's wishes. 

But the appeals court pointed out the decision took years to accomplish and that many other factors besides Canada's wishes were considered.

morguefile.com

For the third year in a row, Detroit has set a six p.m. curfew for minors under age 18 on the night the city has its annual Independence Day fireworks.

The fireworks are scheduled for the evening of June 23rd.

This time, the ACLU of Michigan is objecting to the curfew.

Attorney Michael Steinberg says the curfew is too broad and is likely unconstitutional.

He says the city has a legitimate interest in preventing crime and other incidents at the popular event --

Hyundai

The increased complexity of cars is causing an uptick in problems reported in the first 90 days of ownership, according to an annual survey by J.D. Power.

Problems reported by owners in the first 90 days rose 3% for 2014 model year cars over last year. 

The group says that's because of the increased complexity and features in new cars, especially when it comes to voice recognition and Bluetooth syncing. 

The harsh winter also caused some extra problems with paint, engine performance, and heating systems. 

General Motors has found another problem with ignition switches in vehicles.

In what's sure to become extra ammunition in Wednesday's Senate committee interrogation of GM Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra, the automaker this week is recalling 3.16 million mostly older model vehicles to replace slotted keys with keys with a hole.

The company says the fix will prevent the cars from inadvertently turning off if there is extra weight on the key ring and the car goes over a bump.

The cars involved in the recall:

The Obama administration is telling local police not to disclose details about powerful new surveillance devices they obtained from the federal government.

That's according to the Associated Press.

The devices were developed to monitor enemy cell phone communications on the battlefield. 

Now, the devices, known by the nicknames, "Hailstorm," and "Stingray," are being used as a domestic law enforcement tool.   

Flckr

Legislation in the state House proposed by state Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, would require abortion providers to use ultrasound to detect a fetus's heartbeat – and offer the woman a chance to hear it.

That bill has the support of Right to Life of Michigan.

But the group does not support Hooker's two other bills that make it a crime to perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.

Ultrasound can generally detect a heartbeat at about seven weeks.

user Brucegirl / wikimedia commons

Some state legislators want the International Joint Commission to become involved in a nuclear waste storage dispute.

A Canadian energy company plans to build a nuclear waste storage facility about a mile from Lake Huron – across from Michigan's thumb area.

Sen.Phil Pavlov, R-St. Clair Township, says he hopes Michigan will set an example that other Great Lakes states will follow.

automotiveauto.info

A new study by Business Forward says electric costs will go up only slightly for auto manufacturers as a result of proposed EPA regulations on utilities.

And those costs pale in comparison to the financial impact from climate change.

Jim Doyle is president of the trade group.   He says storms are a huge expense for auto plants, which have to shut down if a supplier can't ship parts due to weather. 

And climate scientists say global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of major storms.

newgrounds.com

Pools and beaches across Michigan are scrambling to find people to work as lifeguards.

Ingham County Parks had to offer its own lifeguard training class this year to get enough lifeguards.

Willis Bennett is the parks director.

"Over the years it's just gotten progressively worse," says Bennett.  "Fifteen, 20 years ago you'd have five applications for every position that you're trying to fill, and now you have one application for every five applications you're trying to fill."

Ford Motor Company

A group of 13 counties organized under the name "Advance Michigan," has won a coveted place on a list of communities to get preference for grants to spur U.S. manufacturing.

Advance Michigan, and 12 other groups in other states, will be given extra consideration by the U.S. Commerce Department for projects to boost manufacturing.

The total funding available - $1.3 billion.

Advance Michigan includes counties with strong ties to auto manufacturing, including Wayne, Oakland, Ingham, Genesee, and Washtenaw.

Wikipedia

Hyundai and Kia made the greenest cars last year, according to an annual ranking by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The sister Korean companies stole the crown from Honda, which had been No. 1 since 1998.

dangerouscurrents.org

Safety advocates hope to reduce drownings caused by rip currents in the Great Lakes this summer - especially at Michigan beaches.

A rip current is a strong river-like flow of water away from shore, that happens when water is pushed up against something like a pier, island, or sandbar.

Swimmers who get caught in one can panic, become exhausted swimming against it, and drown.

Elizabeth LaPorte is with the Michigan Sea Grant.

A group of residents of Scio Township and Ann Arbor hope to stop an oil well project in a heavily residential area between the two municipalities.

That's even though state law prohibits townships from passing ordinances to ban oil and gas drilling.

Laura Robinson is with Citizens for Oil Free Backyards.

She says this is not just a "NIMBY" movement.

NIMBY stands for "Not In My Backyard."

Congressman John Conyers is asking federal housing officials to issue a six-month moratorium on new foreclosures in Detroit.

The moratorium would only apply to home mortgages financed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac that were in good standing before the city filed for bankruptcy.

Conyers sent the request to the nation's new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Melvin Watt.

Photo courtesy of Joel Garlich-Miller, USFWS

The National Wildlife Federation says climate change and global warming are threatening a number of Michigan species.

The environmental group says there are clear signs of trouble for native species that need cooler weather to reproduce.

That includes brook trout, lake sturgeon, and moose.

The Federation's Brenda Archambo says it's time to stop treating global warming as a political issue.

"There are, sadly, a number of people who have decision-making authority that continue to refuse to put solutions in place that actually can change the course we are on," Archambo says. "And we are out of time."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has posted online the results of additional tests performed by GM engineers on recalled Cobalts, HHRs, Ions, and Solstices.

The cars have defective ignition switches that can turn into the "accessory" or off position if a) there is extra weight on the key ring, and b) the switch is jarred, by the car going over rough terrain, for example.

John Conyers office

Wayne County clerk Cathy Garrett says Congressman John Conyers of Detroit did not collect enough signatures to be placed on the August 5 primary ballot.

Garrett says her office investigated the Democrat's petitions. She says only 592 of the necessary 1000 signatures are valid. Many others were disqualified because the people collecting the signatures were not registered voters.

Chrysler posted a loss of $690 million in the first quarter of 2014, largely due to one-time costs associated with a stock buyout.

Chrysler and its Italian partner Fiat purchased the 41.5% of the shares of Chrysler held by a union retiree health care trust.

The deal set the stage for the two to merge, forming a new company – Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

From a purely sales perspective, Chrysler did well in the first quarter. Sales rose 10% from the same period last year, and the automaker's market share rose a full percent.

An Indian manufacturing company is expanding into Michigan.

Mahindra Group will locate  its technical research facility in Troy – and a manufacturing facility in Ann Arbor.

Mahindra's first product in the U.S. will be an electric scooter called the "GenZe."

The scooter is designed for modern urban and campus commuting.  It will get up to 30 miles on a charge, and the battery can be removed and plugged into a regular 110-volt outlet.

Two more big recalls today, this time by Ford Motor Company and Chrysler.

Both companies say they are unaware of any injuries or accidents related to the issues.

Chrysler is recalling about 780-thousand newer model minivans for window switches that can overheat and catch fire.

It's a big day for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The Italian-American company's CEO, Sergio Marchionne,  will outline a strategic plan for the next five years.

The marriage between Chrysler and Fiat surprised many in the auto industry just by surviving.

Now the company is strengthening that union, by exporting its strongest brands around the world.

When Fiat agreed to a kind of corporate shotgun marriage with a fresh-out-of-bankruptcy Chrysler five years ago, a lot of people thought Fiat's CEO Sergio Marchionne was crazy to do it.

Tracy Samilton

Mark Fields will become Ford's CEO on July 1, replacing Alan Mulally, who was hired in 2006.

The automaker was posting massive losses at the time.

One of Mulally's first moves was to insist that his executives honestly disclose problems at a required weekly meeting, using a red-coded slide for "big problem!"

Ali Elisabeth Lapetina

Turning seagoing shipping containers into residences isn't a new idea for Detroit.

But for the first time, such a home will become a reality.

The project is the brainchild of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, which has a farm in Detroit.

Vice president Darin McLeskey says the container will be placed where a blighted home once stood.

"So it's another way to trim the cost of clearing out blight – by leaving utilities and a foundation in place," he said at a press conference at GM's Detroit Hamtramck plant.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx is asking Congress to approve higher penalties for car companies that delay recalls.

The request is part of a proposed $300 billion long-term transportation budget for U.S. road, bridge, and transit projects.

Right now, the most the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration can fine a car company over a delayed recall is $35 million.

Foxx proposes Congress should increase that to $300 million.

A Ford assembly plant in Kansas City.
Ford Motor Company / Flickr

Ford Motor Company's first quarter 2014 profit fell 39% from the same period last year due to a combination of factors, including currency problems in Venezuela, and higher costs for warranty claims and recalls.

Ford made $989 million net income in the first three months of the year.

Ford Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks says some of the decline was foreseen.

The automaker is launching more vehicles (23) this year than any time in its history.

Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum

In Michigan, 60.2% of people are in the labor force, according to a new state report.

The number is essentially unchanged from a year ago.

University of Michigan economist Don Grimes says at least 67% of Michigan's population should be in the labor force this many years after a recession.

He says people in their 20s, and people in their mid to late 50s, are having the most trouble finding work, both in Michigan and nationwide.

Lincoln Park had $4.5 million dollars in its general fund three years ago.

Today, the city has a deficit of nearly $90,000, raising alarm among state officials about how fast it has spent all its money.

Gov. Rick Snyder says he agrees with the Michigan Treasury that a state of financial emergency exists.

Lincoln Park officials say the city is on track to run up at least a $1 million deficit this year. The amount will be higher if the city can't strike a deal on concessions from city workers.

2007 Cobalt, one of the recalled models
GM

A recall crisis at General Motors hasn't slowed sales of Cobalts, HHR's and other cars with a defective ignition switch.

In fact, the cars are selling for more than they did just a month or two ago.

Alec Gutierrez of Kelly Blue Book says used car prices go up in the spring.

"So, it's a matter of a rising tide lifting all boats," he says.

ACSI / University of Michigan

Customer satisfaction hit a 20-year high, in the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The index tracks how happy people are with their shopping, buying and consumption experiences.

On a scale of 100, the index read 76.8 in the fourth quarter of 2013.

Claus Fornell says one reason for the result is the recession and the slow economy that followed made it harder to find and win customers. 

So companies, and their employees, especially those in the service sector, are trying harder to please their customers.

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