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. 


A new report criticizes the expansion of online K-12 schools in Michigan.

Co-author Michael Barbour is with Sacred Heart University.

He says MEAP scores at full-time virtual schools are below the state average, mainly because the schools aren't doing what they promised.

"For as much as we hear in terms of the PR from these companies about personalized or individualized instruction, it is [actually]  a one-size-fits-all model," says Barbour.


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is dealing with higher than expected demand for its Dodge Challenger Hellcat and Dodge Charger Hellcat.

The company complains that some of its dealers are setting customers up for disappointment, by taking too many orders.

Many dealers will get only one Hellcat delivered a month, which could leave customers waiting months for their Hellcat.


GM will have less cash on its books, after making a deal with an activist investor unhappy with the company's stock performance. 

GM agreed to buy back $5 billion worth of its stock, to appease investors led by Harry Wilson. Wilson was a member of the Auto Task Force in 2009 which took GM through bankruptcy. 

He'd threatened to run for GM's board as a hostile candidate, to try to force GM to make an $8 billion stock buyback. 


Consumers Energy says the winter of "Polar Vortex 2" broke some natural gas records. 

The utility broke its 1994 record for most natural gas delivered to homes and businesses in a 24 hour period. 

That was on February 19 and 20, when temperatures dropped to 20 below zero overnight. 


Emergency rules that allow charities to contract with private companies to hold fundraising poker games expire in July.

State Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, says bills he and State Representative Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, introduced would make those rules permanent.

"These are the local Lions, school groups, veterans groups, police and fire groups," says Jones, "and they badly need this charity money."

Charities split the proceeds with the companies that operate the games. 

wikipedia/National Park Service

The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. highways last year is expected to remain largely unchanged from 2013, based on preliminary data.

But a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association says Michigan's pedestrian deaths rose significantly.

In the first six months of 2013, 47 pedestrians lost their lives on a Michigan road.  That number was 66 for the same time period in 2014.


Recalls of automobiles for safety and other defects are up.

In 2014, automakers recalled a record 63.9 million vehicles in the U.S., more than any year in history. 

That means about 25% of the cars on the road were the subject of at least one recall in 2014.

meddygarnet/Flickr / wikipedia

The average length of a car loan was 48 months a few years ago, according to the auto industry consulting firm AutoPacific.

These days, it's 66 months.

"There are quite a few 96-month loans out there, which is kinda scary to think," says the group's Ed Kim.

Chatfield School

UPDATE: A pro-charter group says the methodology used in the Education Trust-Midwest report is deeply flawed.  A link to The Center for Education Reform's critique is included at the bottom of this article.

When Michigan's charter school experiment began 21 years ago, the hope was charters would be better than traditional public schools.

"The majority of them are actually not delivering on that promise," claims Amber Arellano of Education Trust-Midwest, a Kellogg Foundation-funded non-profit that says it is non-partisan, and "agnostic" on the question of who operates schools.

Congressman Dan Kildee
Photo courtesy of the Office of Congressman Dan Kildee

Michigan Congressman Dan Kildee says a majority of "reasonable Republicans" would be willing to avoid a shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security next week.

But on Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner says that's exactly what will happen, if the Senate does not pass a DHS funding bill that can also pass in the House.

Homeland Security will shut down by Friday, February 27th, if a funding bill is not approved.

A number of House Republicans say the funding bill must include provisions to roll back recent presidential orders on immigration, which allow certain people brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the U.S., and defer deportation of their parents.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Shiawassee County officials missed a deadline to get a millage on the May ballot.

So, the county will continue making do without sheriff's road patrols for now.

Hartman Aue is the new chairman of the County Commission.

He says previous commissions "kicked the can down the road," and ignored budget deficits until they got out of control. 

Then, they cut $1.5 million out of the Sheriff's Department budget.

D.H. Parks/Flickr /

Automakers and their suppliers are growing increasingly worried about a standoff between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The union represents longshoremen at West Coast ports, where tons of retail, agricultural, and auto sector materials are shipped in and out every week.

Paige Pfleger / Michigan Radio

A month after showing the Bolt as a concept at the North American International Auto Show, General Motors has announced it will produce the electric car at its Orion Township plant.

Saunteel Jenkins / LinkedIn

Detroit's City Council is re-interviewing two finalists for an open seat, after failing to reach a super-majority of votes as required by the city's charter.   

A city council seat has been open since November 7, when Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins resigned to take over a non-profit group in Detroit.


Michigan Senator Gary Peters says he supports the President asking Congress to authorize war against a terrorist group.  

But he says the request should have come sooner.

The U.S. has been carrying out a military air campaign against the Islamic State for six months.


The City of Fenton is offering residents the use of its police station lobby to finalize Craigslist transactions.

Police Chief Rick Aro says he wants people to have a safe public place to sell or buy items after getting in contact with individuals via websites like Craigslist.


Traverse City has become the second city in Michigan to recognize Indigenous People's Day on the same date as Columbus Day.

Angeline Antoine is a member of the group Idle No More Michigan that put the resolution before the Traverse City City Council.

She says Columbus never set foot on American soil -- and he mistreated the natives he came into contact with.

"If we can recognize these truths, then we can open dialogue for reconcialiation and break down the barriers between the native and non-native community," she says.

wikimedia commons

Kent County's Department of Public Works used to accept old-style cathode ray televisions and recycle them at no cost to residents.

That's changed.

Kristen Wieland manages recycling for the county.  She says television manufacturers used to financially support Michigan's television recycling programs, but they've stopped doing it.

So, the county is asking residents to cover half the cost of recycling an old t.v. and hoping for the best.

"When you ask someone to pay for recycling it doesn't always go over well," she says.

General Motors

The U.S. added 7,000 auto manufacturing jobs in January.

More job growth in the sector is likely on the way.

"These are great numbers. And we expect to see further employment increases throughout the year," says Sean McAlinden, an economist with the Center for Automotive Research. "And it's not just in traditional light car and truck manufacturing, but also in the RV and trailer sector. And this reflects obviously a faster-growing economy, and cheaper fuel."

Shoveling in Tecumseh, Michigan.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

State Rep. Phil Potvin is from Cadillac, where there's been a lot of snow this year. 

But he says there are a lot of school districts that could use some more wiggle room when it comes to snow days.

His bill would increase the number from six to nine.

Wayne County

Wayne County Executive Warren Evans says the county's deficit is higher than feared, and if nothing is done, the county is on track to add $70 million each year to the $88 million deficit.

But the head of the County Commission, Gary Woronchak, says the county can dig itself out of the hole.

Still, he says there are painful decisions ahead. 

The county's revenues are a third less than needed to pay the bills.  

Brandon C / Flickr

General Motors reports earning $2.8 billion last year, despite issuing a record number of recalls.

GM recalled more than 26 million vehicles in the U.S., and 30 million globally.

GM CEO Mary Barra says the recall crisis was "galvanizing."

"We have built what I believe is the best safety organization in the industry, and we are instilling a zero-defect mindset across the company," she told analysts and investors during a conference call on the fiscal year's financial results.

Ford Motor Company

The new F-150 appears to be a slam dunk for Ford Motor Company.

Ford officials say, based on the strong demand for the pickup in January, the company will hire 1,550 additional workers at its facilities that build the truck.

Ford Motor Company

Between 300 and 500 Ford Motor Company workers will soon be getting a raise - a big raise.

Ford is bumping the workers from the so-called Tier 2 starting wage, now about $19.50 an hour, to the Tier 1 wage of $28.50 an hour.


Mercury levels are going down in the Great Lakes.

But they're going up in the oceans.

Paul Drevnick, a researcher at the University of Michigan, has a new study showing that mercury levels in a specific species of tuna – yellowfin – are increasing at a rate of 3.8% a year in the Pacific.

Motor Trend

January 31 was the deadline to file a claim related to GM's ignition switch recall, and as the administrators of a special compensation fund expected, there was a last-minute surge in filed claims.


Calling it a "choke point" that could let invasive carp into the Great Lakes, State Attorney General Bill Schuette is urging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take immediate, interim steps at the Brandon Road lock on the Des Plaines River near Joliet, Illinois.

The Truth About Cars/wikipedia

A law firm says it will file suit against Ford Motor Company because the automaker fired a Christian contract employee for criticizing the company's support of gay employees.

Ford Motor Company says the employee, Thomas Banks, violated its anti-harassment policy.

Banks' law firm, Liberty Institute, says Ford discriminated against Banks for his religious beliefs, in violation of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Ford Motor Company's earnings last year totaled $3.2 billion, a big drop from 2013, when the company made $6.2 billion.

But Ford executives say much of the decline is due to a record 24 new vehicle launches last year.  

"Certainly we have more costs associated with those product launches," says Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks. "(But) they were going to set us up for a much stronger 2015 and that's exactly where we find ourselves today."


Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg has re-introduced a package of bills intended to restrain the powers of government authorities to seize assets from citizens.

Walberg says too often, police use forfeiture powers as a revenue stream, rather than a crime-fighting tool.