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
12:08 pm
Wed October 30, 2013

Slow economy doesn't mean slow auto industry

U.S. auto assembly lines are busy
automotiveauto.info

All three Detroit automakers had a solid third quarter.

Chrysler, the smallest of the three, made $464 million, despite a two-month delay in shipping the new Jeep Cherokee, which was plagued with quality issues.  Most dealers will have the cars by mid-November.  CEO Sergio Marchionne says he has higher expectations for profits in the fourth quarter. 

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Economy
10:47 am
Mon October 28, 2013

Museum faces final deadline to save part of Rosie's factory

Image of the fire that destroyed Yankee Air Museum
Yankee Air Museum

Historians say Henry Ford reluctantly became part of the American war effort during World War II.

But once he acquiesced, his huge bomber plant in Ypsilanti made a big difference in the ability of American pilots to fight the air war.

By 1945, the Ford signature efficiency and moving assembly line was turning out a bomber every hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Economy
12:49 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Majority support $10.00 an hour minimum wage

A photo of a $10 bill on Pokey
Michigan Radio

Fifty-eight percent of people in a new poll say they support raising the minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $10 an hour.

The poll was conducted by Marketing Resource Group and Mitchell Research and Communications, and commissioned by Inside Michigan Politics.

Bill Ballenger is with Inside Michigan Politics.  He says it made sense to do the poll now, given the push on both the national and state level on the issue.

Sttate Representative Rashida Tlaib has introduced a bill that would raise Michigan's minimum wage from $7.40 an hour to $10.00 an hour by the year 2016.

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Auto
4:31 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Toyota recalls 800,000 Camrys, Avalons, Venzas

2012 Camry
Toyota

Toyota is recalling approximately 803,000 model year 2012-2013 Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, and Venza vehicles due to a problem that could result in air bag failure.

From the company's press release:

In the involved vehicles, water from the air conditioning condenser unit housing could leak onto the airbag control module and cause a short circuit, resulting in illumination of the airbag warning light. In some instances, the air bag(s) could become disabled or could inadvertently deploy.

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Law
3:58 pm
Thu October 17, 2013

Lawsuit says rape common for juvenile offenders placed in adult prisons

prison cell
Ken Mayer Flickr

A group of young male prisoners is suing the state of Michigan.

The prisoners allege they were subjected to sexual harassment, rape, and in some instances sexual trafficking, as a result of the state's policy of housing juvenile offenders age 17 and younger in the same facility as adult offenders.

"Placing children in adult facilities puts them at five times a greater risk of rape than if you keep them in a juvenile facility," says attorney Deborah LaBelle, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of the prisoners.

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Law
3:50 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Gay marriage case headed to trial

Beth and Lisa Bashert
Michigan Radio

Updated 5:35 p.m.

After federal judge Bernard Friedman ordered a trial on the constitutionality of Michigan's ban on gay marriage, attorney Jay Kaplan called the delay a disappointment. 

Kaplan is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT Project.  He says going to trial could work out better in the long run.

"He’s being cautious," Kaplan says of Friedman.  "Because if he renders a good decision, you don’t want to see that decision reversed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, and having a factual record strengthens your opinion.”

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Law
1:02 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

Michigan gay couples prepare for "I do," if federal court decision allows

DeBoer/Rowse family
Paul Sancya Associated Press

County clerks are preparing for a deluge of marriage license applications from gay people late this afternoon, should U.S. District Court judge Bernard Friedman issue a ruling that would allow same-sex people to marry.

But the brides and grooms-to be could be disappointed.

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Auto
3:45 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

The 'econobox' is dead. Long live the nice small car.

Ford Fiesta
Ford Motor Company

In recent years, U.S. automakers have introduced a slew of appealing new compact, sub-compact and mini cars.  The trend threatens to make the "econobox" an endangered species.

Econobox is the disparaging term used by many auto analysts and reviewers, including Michelle Krebs of Edmunds.com, to describe a cheaply made, no-frills small car.

Krebs says U.S. domestic car companies were caught flat-footed, with no small cars to offer during the oil crisis of the 1970s.  That left them unable to compete with Toyota and Honda's fuel-efficient and reliable small cars.

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Politics & Government
5:11 pm
Wed October 9, 2013

State in contingency planning for federal default

Shelves of food for needy
Project Hope

State officials are hoping for the best when it comes to the federal shutdown and potential default on its debt.

But they're preparing for the worst.  State agencies have been told to submit contingency plans to the budget office by next week.

The worst-case scenario is pretty grim.  

Food banks could quickly be overwhelmed if the 1.6 million people getting food assistance in Michigan lose their benefits, and tens of thousands of people on unemployment are cut off from their checks. 

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Auto
5:31 pm
Mon October 7, 2013

GM: The car can drive itself - but don't fall asleep

Jeremy Salinger sits with arms crossed as car drives itself
General Motors

The fully self-driving or autonomous car is probably decades away.  But partly self-driving cars will be here by the end of the decade, according to General Motors.

GM invited reporters to its Milford Proving Grounds this week to drive Cadillacs equipped with prototypes of the technology - which includes radar, cameras, GPS and maps that help the car drive itself.

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Auto
1:16 pm
Sun September 15, 2013

Heavy metal? It's as passe' for cars as it is for music

2013 SRT Viper
Chrysler

As tough new fuel economy regulations loom, automakers are scrambling to make their cars' powertrains - that's the engine, batteries, and transmission - as efficient as they can possibly be. 

But that won't be enough to meet the new standard of 49 miles per gallon average by 2025.

Cars will also have to be lighter, because in general, the lighter the car is, the less fuel it requires to move down the road.

So, automakers are looking at ways to use more aluminum and magnesium in their cars. 

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Auto
2:34 pm
Tue September 10, 2013

Car buyers increasingly internet and app-savvy

smart phone car buying app
automotiontv.com

It's not just "Gen Y" consumers using their smart phone apps, social media, and the internet to decide what car to buy.

Four out of five people used a broad array of digital sources of information when narrowing down their search, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates.

About half did not have a brand preference when they began their search.

Researcher Arianne Walker says car companies need to be everywhere - because consumers are.

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Health
1:46 pm
Sat September 7, 2013

Creating an oasis in a food desert

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new non-profit bank is opening to encourage grocery stores to locate in so-called "food deserts."

Those are places in cities, suburbs and rural areas with no farmers markets or grocery stores.

Jane Whitacre is director of the Michigan Food Policy Council. She says many other states have long taken advantage of a program that lends money to grocery stores to set up in under-served areas.

“It's really silly that a food state like Michigan hasn't already done this,” says Whitacre.

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Health
1:13 pm
Fri September 6, 2013

Michigan follows U.S. trend of declining teen pregnancies

graphic showing teens various birth control options
stayteen.org

Teen births in the United States hit a historic low last year, according to preliminary data.

The new data is part of a long-term trend.

The number of teen births are half what they were in 1991.

Jane Zehnder-Merrill is with the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The group advocates for policies that help children.

She says teen births are also dropping in Michigan, mainly because schools and health groups are making it a priority.

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Auto
6:14 pm
Wed August 28, 2013

Toyota, already king of hybrids, to add 19 new models globally

Toyota's global hybrids - all in one place
Toyota

When Toyota first introduced the Prius in Japan in 1997 and in the U.S. in 2000, the company used its image as a maker of highly reliable, high quality cars to sell the new technology to early adopters.

"The Toyota halo was the closer," says Bob Carter, Toyota's Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations for Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A. Inc. 

Now the opposite is true - Prius provides the halo for Toyota.

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Auto
11:12 am
Tue August 27, 2013

People a little less happy with car companies - especially Detroit car companies

Customer satisfaction with car companies dropped slightly from last year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI).

The index tracks how happy people are with the things they buy. 

Satisfaction dropped even more for Detroit automakers.

Claus Fornell is the founder of the index.   He says two years ago, satisfaction with Detroit car companies and Japanese competitors was a tie.  Now, there's a gap again - and it's the widest in five years.

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Business
10:31 am
Mon August 19, 2013

Who will buy Detroit Schools bonds?

Josh Gonze
Thornberg Investment Management

The opportunity to buy bonds from a troubled school district run by an emergency manager, in a city that's just filed for bankruptcy, may seem akin to the opportunity to get your hands on some great snake oil, or a big lot in a Florida swamp, cheap.

But one municipal bond portfolio manager thinks Detroit Public Schools' bond offering, expected tomorrow, could actually be a good deal.

"There's an extraordinary amount of interest in buying short maturity bonds with high yield," says Josh Gonze of Thornberg Investment Management based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Auto
2:55 pm
Fri August 16, 2013

GM recalls 292,879 Chevy Cruzes for braking issue

2014 Chevy Cruze Eco
General Motors

GM will recall 292,879 Chevy Cruze cars from the  2011 and 2012 model years for a potential intermittent loss of partial braking power.

GM says it's aware of 27 low-speed crashes, some of which could be linked to the problem, but no injuries.

The automaker says in rare instances, a driver might have to apply extra force to the brake to get the car to stop.

The recall is for Cruze cars equipped with the 1.4 liter gasoline turbo engine and automatic transmission.

Dealers will remove and replace a microswitch in the power brake vacuum pipe assembly.

Politics & Government
5:10 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

Detroit mayoral candidates vow to be specific about their fix-it plans

Second place finisher Benny Napoleon
Napoleon campaign website

With the primary behind them, both top-place finishers say voters will hear plenty of specifics about how each would tackle Detroit's problems if elected mayor of the city.

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon received the second largest number of votes.

"We will both present a written plan, I am sure," Napoleon told Michigan Radio's Stateside program the day after the election.  "I am in the process of finalizing mine and putting it out for the world to scrutinize."

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Auto
2:58 pm
Wed August 7, 2013

New frontal offset crash protection proving a difficult engineering challenge

Result of Nissan Sentra's frontal offset crash test
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Honda Civic was the only one out of a group of small cars to get a "good" rating on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's new small overlap front crash test. 

The safety group gives cars a "good, acceptable, marginal, or poor" rating for how well a car protects drivers and passengers in different kinds of crashes.

The small overlap situation happens when just the front corner of a car near the headlight hits something, so the force of the impact is not absorbed by the front bumper, engine and hood.

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