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. 

Echologics

Flint knows it has a problem with water leaks.  It just doesn't know how many, or where, the leaks are.

Spokesman Jason Lorenz says the city may be losing up to 30% of its water from leaks.

Nhandler/wikipedia / Jonesy22/creative commons

Oakland County is using a new app that uses facial recognition software to help reunite lost dogs with their owners.

Joanie Toole is chief of the Oakland Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center.

She says people can load a photo of their dog on the app called "Finding Rover."

USDA/wikipedia

More than 70% of Michigan school districts used a private contractor for busing, custodial, or food service in 2015, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

James Hohman of the Center says privatizing helps districts trim their payroll. Districts must pay about 25% of payroll into the state's severely underfunded pension plan.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/77087921@N06/6910355817
cwazniak / Flickr/creative commons

Unemployment is improving, and gas prices are relatively low. That means more people are on the road, and they're driving more miles.

"During the recession, motor vehicle fatalities dropped by around 10,000," says the National Safety Council's Ken Kolosh. "Now with the economy improving, with gas prices at relatively low levels, we're beginning to see a rebound."

General Motors

A University of Iowa survey finds many people are uncertain how many safety technologies work – even those that have been around for a long time.  

27% haven't heard of traction control, and the same percentage don't recognize the symbol indicating low tire pressure. 

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is adding another $5 million in grants to help farmers near the Great Lakes plant cover crops.

Colleen Forestieri is with the Van Buren Conservation District.

She says it's one way to keep phosphorus from getting into Lake Erie and feeding the cyanobacteria.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Pontiac_Commercial_Historic_District_B.JPG
Andrew Jameson / wikimedia/GNU Free Documentation License

Doctors' Hospital in Pontiac has filed for bankruptcy protection a second time.

Now, Oakland County officials fear losing a crucial residency training program that is based at the hospital.

From a Ferguson protest in New York City.
user The All-Nite Images / Flickr

Some Detroiters are taking part in a national day of action on Saturday to protest police brutality, especially against people of color.

Mahogany Dixon says she will be there. Dixon just graduated from high school. She and her friends found out about the event on social media, and they're using social media to encourage others to attend.

The incomplete Wayne County jail.
Wayne County

It will get harder from here.

Wayne County Commissioners have approved a consent agreement with the State of Michigan to deal with the county's fiscal emergency.

Of the 14 commissioners, only one, Jewel Ware, voted no.

The agreement means the county will be able to avoid the appointment of an emergency manager, if it can meet the terms.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley doesn't seem worried about his single-digit position in the polls.

O'Malley is running for the Democratic nomination for president, and is currently running far behind Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

"A person can become very, very famous in our country overnight, once the people of Iowa make their determination," O'Malley told reporters outside the Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor Wednesday night, where he was to attend a private fundraiser. "In fact, President Obama defeated the inevitable front-runner" eight years ago in that very first contest, he noted.

Atlantic Council / Flickr

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump isn't getting a lot of love from politicians in his own party, let alone from Democrats.

But U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Michigan, fast gaining a reputation for straight talk herself, had some rare words of praise.

Flickr/creative commons

Updated: 8/12/15, 2:51 pm

I'll admit I thought it was a bit crazy, when I heard that some places in Michigan had pledged to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2016.   

Zero: 2016 is a national campaign that urges communities to reduce veteran homelessness to virtually zero by the end of 2015, and reduce chronic homelessness to virtually zero by the end of 2016. 

Washtenaw, Oakland, and Genessee counties and the city of Detroit joined the campaign in January. 

Washtenaw and Oakland counties are getting close to the goal.

CZ marlin / wikimedia commons

Another auto lender is getting attention from federal regulators for its car loan practices.

Spanish bank Santander's U.S. division underwrites car loans at Fiat Chrysler dealerships. 

As many as 60% of its U.S. car loans are sub-prime.  Those are higher-risk loans made to people with low to very low credit scores. 

MEDC/Pure Michigan

Michigan economic development officials hope to change the sometimes negative perception of the state's auto industry using the power of the Pure Michigan ad campaign.

The state has launched the first in a series of new ads called "Michigan Runs on Brainpower."

PwC

A survey of global auto manufacturers and suppliers finds a 30% increase in the number of cyber attacks between 2013 and 2014.

Rick Hanna, PwC's global automotive leader, says it's possible that some of the reported increase is simply because the companies are paying more attention, "but it's a growing risk."

About two-thirds of hacking attempts are from employees and former employees.

General Motors

General Motors shut many of its Flint facilities over the past 30 years.  The devastating effect on the city of Flint was the subject of a famous movie, "Roger and Me," by filmmaker Michael Moore.

But Flint Assembly -- GM's oldest assembly plant in North America -- remains. 

The automaker's $877 million investment ensures the plant will be one of its most important facilities for the foreseeable future. 

CDC

The clock is ticking for parents who waited to get their children vaccinated, or who haven't yet acquired a waiver from vaccines.

A new state policy requires parents to attend an educational session with a county public health nurse to get a vaccine waiver for religious or philosophical reasons. 

In the past, parents could just pick up the waiver at school and fill it out.

The policy is intended to reduce the numbers of children who attend school without being vaccinated against diseases. 

Fiat Chrysler Automobile workers on an assembly line.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Despite having to pay $70 million of a record $105 million civil fine for U.S. recall violations, U.K.-based Fiat Chrysler made $333 million Euro in the second quarter. 

That's about $372 million, and a big jump from the same period a year ago. 

Ford Motor Company

Updated:  9:51 a.m. 7-30-15 This story was updated to reflect Ford's disputing the IIHS finding that the new F-150 is more costly to repair than the old F-150. 

Ford's F-150 pickup truck has been the best selling vehicle in the United States for 28 years — and the best selling truck for 33 years.

And the truck is Ford's most profitable vehicle, according to analysts.

So there were some raised eyebrows when Ford announced it would make the next F-150 with a mostly aluminum body, instead of steel.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Russia is in a recession. China's auto market, the largest in the world, is softening. 

The currency situation in South America is causing no end of headaches for global automakers.

Europe's market has improved, but it's still just coming out of a very deep trough.

wikipedia

Fiat Chrysler will pay a record $105 million fine for multiple recall violations. That's bad enough.

"Fiat Chrysler does not have the deep pockets General Motors has, or Toyota," says Michelle Krebs of Autotrader, referring to two other car companies slapped with large civil penalties for recall violations.  "It certainly will pinch."

General Motors

The Obama Administration says 13 of the nation's largest companies are taking the "American Business Act on Climate Pledge," including General Motors.

Other companies pledging to significantly reduce their carbon emissions are Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart.

NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has slapped Fiat Chrysler with a $105 million civil penalty for multiple violations of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

The penalty surpasses the previous record, a $70 million civil fine against Honda last year, over recall violations related to vehicles with defective airbags.

Harsha KR / Flickr/creative commons

It can certainly be risky to keep an older loved one behind the wheel if he or she is no longer driving safely.

It can also be risky to take away the keys. Social isolation and the many ills associated with social isolation can be the result.

Ford Motor Company

The United Auto Workers and Ford Motor Company are officially in talks for their next four-year contract.

This time, the kickoff ceremony was held off Ford and UAW premises, at Cass Tech High School. The site was chosen to highlight Ford and the UAW's team effort to help the Detroit community.

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Raido / Flickr.com

Fiat Chrysler says it has a software remedy available to customers, after two hacking experts took remote control of a Jeep Cherokee using the Internet.

Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek used the Jeep's UConnect system to gain access to the moving vehicle, which was being operated by WIRED's Andy Greenberg.

Clement Bucco-Lechat / Wikimedia/creative commons

It's getting harder and harder to find a car that's worth hating.

For 20 years, the J.D. Power APEAL study has scored brands and vehicles on a scale of 1,000 to determine how gratifying they are to own and drive.

Renee Stephens, V.P. of U.S. automotive quality, says two decades ago, it wasn't unusual for some brands and cars to score in the mid 500's.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan celebrates the completion of "MCity" in a grand opening ceremony on Monday.

MCity is a 32-acre autonomous vehicle test track, designed to resemble a real city and suburb, with stoplights, artificial pedestrians that can be launched suddenly in front of a driverless car, and movable buildings.

Atlanta Jeep Ram Dodge

Earlier this year, Fiat and Chrysler cars ranked at the very bottom of  the 2015 Initial Quality Survey by J.D. Power.

That survey rates brands based on how many problems new car owners experienced in the first 90 days of ownership.

Now, turn that survey on its head, and you'll basically have the results of the 2015 Total Quality Index by Strategic Vision.

Fiat Chrysler was the number-one automaker in the survey, with six vehicles that were rated best for total quality:  The Fiat 500, Dodge Charger, Dodge Challenger, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Durango, and Ram truck.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

I sure would.

"Mean Tweets" is a popular segment on the Jimmy Kimmel late-night TV show.

Kimmel has convinced famous movie stars and even the president of the United States to read mean tweets about themselves in front of a camera.

Now, John Dingell has a bet with his wife, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, that she can't get 5,000 Twitter followers by Sunday.

But if she does, he'll read mean tweets about himself, Jimmy Kimmel-style, and post the video online.

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