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.


5:33 pm
Wed June 19, 2013

General Motors vehicles have fewest problems in first 90 days

This year's vehicle Initial Quality Survey by the business tracking firm J.D Power and Associates is a bit of a stunner.

The survey asks people how many problems they had with their car in the first 90 days of ownership.

The top auto company was GM. 

The company's GMC brand was second only to Porsche.  That's the first time GMC has ranked anywhere near that high in the history of the survey.   Chevy was fifth, also a dramatic rise in the rankings.

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1:53 pm
Fri June 14, 2013

Chrysler to change pension system for 8,000 salaried workers

Chrysler is freezing contributions to its U.S. defined benefit pension plans for salaried employees, and will switch to a defined contribution plan instead.

Chrysler will determine the amount it will contribute - and that amount is not being publicly disclosed - and employees will choose from a number of investment strategies, such as stocks and bonds, annuities, etc.

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The Environment Report
9:00 am
Thu June 13, 2013

UM researcher: focus on electric cars won't solve climate problem by itself

The Nissan Leaf is a "pure electric." No gas motor on board.
user cliff1066 flickr

Talk about a research monkey wrench.

The federal government and automakers have spent billions and billions of dollars to encourage the development of electric cars. Consumers get a big tax credit to buy one.

Now, a University of Michigan researcher says it's really not worth the money.

On average, an electric car produces half the carbon dioxide emissions as a gasoline-burning car.

John DeCicco doesn't dispute that. But the natural resources professor says everyone is so focused on the car, they're ignoring the bigger problem. (You can read his new study in the journal Energy Policy here).

Two-thirds of the carbon going into our atmosphere comes from things like factories, oil refineries, and power plants.

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5:21 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Judge kicks Duggan off Detroit mayoral ballot

Mike Duggan (file photo)

One of the two front-runners in the Detroit mayoral race is off the ballot for the August primary.

Mike Duggan is the former CEO of the Detroit Medical Center.

He registered to vote in the city on April 16, 2012.

According to city law, a candidate for elected office must be a registered voter a full year before filing.

Duggan filed his nominating signatures for his mayoral run April 2, 2013 - fourteen days short of the requirement.

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Politics & Government
12:00 pm
Tue June 11, 2013

Congressman Sander Levin to live on $31 food budget for a week

Congressman Sandy Levin of Michigan's 12th District

It's not easy to buy enough nutritious, filling food to last a week if you only have $31 -- the average amount an individual on food stamps receives from the federal government.

"I bought tuna, lots of cans of tuna," says Michigan Congressman Sandy Levin.  

Levin is participating in a challenge to eat on an impoverished person's food budget for a week, to call attention to deep cuts in food programs proposed by House Republicans.  

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11:29 am
Tue June 11, 2013

Distracted walking compounds danger of distracted driving

pedestrian with cell phone

A new survey suggests the danger of distracted driving is being compounded by distracted walking.

Dave Melton of Liberty International, the parent group of Liberty Mutual, says more and more pedestrians are chatting and texting on their cell phones as they cross streets.

55% of people surveyed agree it's dangerous, yet nearly half admit to doing it.

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5:13 pm
Wed June 5, 2013

AATA does not have to put anti-Israel ad on its buses


A federal judge says a new advertisement policy adopted by Ann Arbor's bus system is constitutional - unlike its old one.

The new policy bans all political ads.  It was adopted after the bus system rejected an ad for being in "bad taste."

That proposed ad called for a boycott of Israel, and featured an image of a spider crushing a skull.

The federal judge told the AATA in a previous court ruling that the "bad taste" policy could violate free speech rights.

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5:11 pm
Tue June 4, 2013

Chrysler says 'no' to NHTSA recall in rare move

A 2004 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Credit Bull Doser / Wikimedia Commons

In a rare move, Chrysler is saying "no" to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a recall.

The agency wants the Detroit automaker to recall 2.7 million vehicles.

NHTSA claims a defect increases the risk of fire in rear crashes involving Jeep Grand Cherokees built in the 1993 to 2004 model years  and in Jeep Liberties built in the 2002 to 2007 model years.

Chrysler says the agency's reasoning is deeply flawed and the vehicles are safe.

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6:23 pm
Fri May 24, 2013

Buena Vista fails to pay teachers, after all the controversy

It was a payless payday after all, for teachers in the Buena Vista School District on Friday.

After a two-week shutdown of the district, teachers returned to the job on Monday.

State officials had said they would oversee how the troubled district spent its state aid.

David Crim is with the Michigan Education Association.

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4:09 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Why automakers' claims of 'my truck pulls more than your truck' here to stay, for awhile at least

Toyota Tundra, pulling something heavy. Uh, make that super-heavy.

U.S. automakers have finally agreed on a uniform standard to determine the towing capacity of a pickup truck, veteran auto journalist Bill Visnic tells us in his article in

Except, now that they've created it, automakers are backing away from actually using it.

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Politics & Government
5:34 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Warren's mayor unimpressed by "window dressing" changes to fireworks law

It could be a long, hot, NOISY summer in Warren, Michigan, along with many other communities.

The city's mayor, Jim Fouts, is one of the most vocal critics of the state's one-year-old fireworks law, which permits individuals to purchase commercial-grade fireworks, and set them off the day before, the day of, and the day after ten major holidays.

He says a modification to the law being considered by the state legislature will do no good.

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5:03 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Ford, Chrysler to keep some plants humming this summer

Car companies closed a lot of North American factories in the past ten years as the auto industry restructured.

That has made Jim Tetreault's job even more of an art and a science.

Tetreault is Ford's head of North American manufacturing.  He's responsible for maximizing the number of vehicles that any of the Detroit automaker's remaining plants can produce, while minimizing the downtime at each facility.

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11:12 am
Tue May 21, 2013

Chrysler/Fiat CEO apologizes to group for ethnic slur

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne, in a BLACK sweater (we're shocked!)

An anti-bias group says it has received a written apology from Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne for his use of a pejorative word to refer to Italians.

The Italian American ONE VOICE Coalition says Marchionne apologized for using the word "wop" during a press conference at the Detroit Auto Show.    Marchionne was commenting on the long-delayed introduction of the new generation of Alfa Romeos.  He stated, “I won't put an American engine into that car. With all due respect to my American friends, it needs to be a wop engine.” 

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5:55 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Buick, oldest surviving U.S. brand, celebrates 110th

new Buick Regal
General Motors

Buick will be 110 years old on Sunday.  But the brand nearly didn't survive.

In 2009, GM's bankruptcy forced the automaker to cut brands.  The company tried to find buyers for Saturn, Hummer, and Saab, but eventually those sales fell through.

The company also decided it had to choose between Pontiac, and Buick.  Pontiac's customers on average were younger - that's a desirable thing for a brand - and it was outselling Buick.  Yet, GM chose Buick.

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5:36 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Shelter for sexually trafficked girls launched in Grand Rapids

A group that opened the state's first shelter for underage victims of sex trafficking says there's a need for more such shelters.

Andy Soper is with the Manasseh Project, which opened the 12-bed shelter six months ago.

"We're seeing the growth in the young women getting back up to their grade level in school, working diligently on their therapy and their recovery process, getting jobs, so we're seeing progress and it's wonderful to see," Soper told Michigan Radio.

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5:21 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Most small SUVS flunk new kind of crash test

2014 Subaru Forester

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports "not stellar" results for the latest group of vehicles to undergo a new "small overlap frontal crash" test.

The test sees how well a vehicle protects an occupant in a situation where just a part of the front of the car hits something. One example would be two vehicles approaching each other, and one strays a little bit over the center line, causing an offset accident.

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Politics & Government
6:19 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Most Michiganders approve of gay marriage

In 2004, a majority of Michigan voters approved an amendment to the state constitution, banning any recognition of marriage or civil unions between same-sex couples.

Just nine years later, it appears there has been a sea change.

A new poll, paid for by Chicago-based marketing consulting company, the Glengariff Group, finds that not only do most respondents agree the 2004 amendment should be reversed, they also support immediately replacing the ban with a new amendment, protecting marriage rights for gay and lesbian residents of the state.

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10:48 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Will Ray LaHood's anti-distracted driving legacy endure?

Ray LaHood has seldom kept his opinions to himself.

The country's U.S. Secretary of Transportation since 2008, LaHood early established a reputation for bluntness and rattling cages.

After Toyota recalled millions of vehicles around the world for faulty floor mats that could entrap the gas pedal, LaHood advised people who owned Toyota cars to "park them" immediately and not drive them until the company fixed the problem.

He later distanced himself from the startling pronouncement.

LaHood also angered many a car company executive for attacking sophisticated car infotainment systems as too distracting.  Those systems promise a new source of precious revenue for the automakers.

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3:06 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Could GM's Billy Durant become as famous as Henry Ford?

Billy Durant
GM archives

Every school child knows the name Henry Ford, and his contribution to the auto industry.

Billy Durant never achieved anywhere near Ford's fame. 

Durant was one of the progenitors of the company we now know as General Motors.

Durant's role in the building of the American auto industry could become better known, depending on just what GM decides to do with Durant's first factory in Flint.  GM recently acquired the building for an undisclosed amount.

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2:38 pm
Fri May 10, 2013

EMU Board gives President two year contract extension

EMU President Susan Martin
Eastern Michigan University

EMU's Board of Regents unanimously approved a two-year contract extension for the university's president, Susan Martin, at a special meeting on Friday.

Last fall, the Board reprimanded Martin for problem drinking, and told her to seek counseling or lose her job.

There was no mention of the issue during the Board meeting, in which Martin was praised for leading Eastern "during a five-year period of significant growth in enrollment, academic success, and major upgrades to campus buildings and the University's infrasture," said Board chair Francine Parker.