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. 

If you follow auto news at all, you know this already.  Ford Motor Company's new F-150 has an aluminum body. 

Aluminum is lighter than steel, so the switch has taken up to 700 pounds off the weight of the pickup, improving the truck's fuel economy as well as the payload and towing capacity.


Michigan agriculture producers say it's time to lift the trade embargo against Cuba.

They say Cuba is an untapped market for Michigan's black beans, fruits, milk and other products.

Dave Armstrong is CEO of GreenStone Farm Credit.

"Foreign competitors like Canada, Brazil, the European Union and Argentina – which don't have such restrictions – are taking U.S. and Michigan market share," says Dave Armstrong, CEO of Greenstone Farm Credit.

Jim Byrum is President of the Michigan Agri-Business Association.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reached an agreement with the auto industry to phase out most copper from brake pads by the year 2025.

The agreement follows in the wake of California's adoption of the regulation, which is designed to protect salmon and other fish, along with aquatic plants, from the toxic effects of copper.

Every time a driver hits the brakes, the friction rubs off part of the brake pad. The fine dust of copper and other toxic materials on roadways is flushed into nearby waterways.

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Ann Arbor's Downtown Development Authority may start an ambassadors program, similar to the one now in place in Grand Rapids.

City ambassadors can perform a wide range of services – from directing tourists to landmarks, to opening doors for people at large events, to handing out umbrellas to visitors on rainy days.

Susan Pollay is Director of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority.  She says if such a program starts in Ann Arbor, it would be "multi-faceted."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan State Police say they have been focusing resources on an unusually dangerous stretch of I-94 between Battle Creek and Galesburg for some time.

That was before a massive pileup of more than 190  vehicles on January 9th.

Now, police will bring even more resources to bear on the area.  An enforcement campaign this summer will expand beyond the usual speeding and drunk driving offenses.

"We're also going to incorporate some videotaping of some drivers texting while driving," says Lieutenant Dale Hinds.  "We've had quite a bit of issue with that in that area."

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne rarely holds a press conference without offering at least one memorable quote.

Actually, let's make that never. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne has never given a press conference without making at least one statement that is memorable, or colorful, or shocking, or funny, or all four combined.

GM hopes the Chevy Bolt will make long range electric cars affordable.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

General Motors officials introduced a concept car, the Chevy Bolt, today at the North American International Auto Show. The car company claims the all-electric car has a range of up to 200 miles on one charge and will be affordable to the typical consumer. The company puts the price of the Bolt at $30,000 including a federal tax credit.

If it’s released, the Bolt would compete with the electric car-maker Tesla. Tesla’s Model S has a range of 265 miles on one charge, but the car’s price tag is out of reach for many consumers with a base price of nearly $70,000.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint's emergency manager says he will not approve a return to Detroit's water system, even though the city's switch to using water from the Flint River has been rife with problems.

Flint ditched its water contract with Detroit, and began using water from the Flint River instead this spring.  Complaints surfaced early on about the water's taste. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A state emergency loan board approved a modified firefighters contract that Emergency Manager Darnell Early says will save $600,000 in the first year, and $6 million dollars long-term. 

Firefighters had proposed their own concessions, but the State Treasury says those were rejected because they didn't achieve the same cost savings.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra.
Dave Pinter / flickr

Two weeks after Mary Barra took charge of General Motors, she faced a sudden challenge that could have tested even a seasoned CEO.

The automaker was forced to admit it had delayed a recall of 2.6 million Cobalts and other small cars for 10 years, leading to dozens of deaths that might not have happened had the recall been timely.

Soon, Barra was called before several congressional committees, where she endured sometimes merciless questioning about the scandal. 

Marianne Udow-Phillips is Director of the University of Michigan's Center for Healthcare Research.
user mudowp / Twitter

Marianne Udow-Phillips, Director of the UM Center for Healthcare Research, is not making any more predictions. 

At least, not about health insurance coverage rates in Michigan.

IIHS / Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Analysts expect another good year for auto sales in 2015. 

But automakers may have to lean more heavily on techniques that boost sales.

Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive says it looks like the economy will grow this year - albeit slowly. 

Economic growth supports car buying.

"But the real wild card is going to be interest rates," he says.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Gas prices dropped below $2.00 a gallon on the first day of the New Year. 

AAA Michigan says March of 2009 is the last time gas prices were this low.

The current statewide average is $1.97 per gallon.  

The decline is due to a very large drop in crude oil costs; AAA says crude oil represents about two-thirds of the cost of gasoline.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

Jim Harbaugh displayed a ready wit, apologized for some past mistakes, and refused to guarantee a win over Ohio State at his first press conference as head coach for the University of Michigan football program.

The former San Francisco 49ers head coach and U of M star quarterback says he's dreamed about the job ever since he was a ball boy for the team, who once sat down at Bo Schembechler's desk and put his feet up on it.

Now the coach's desk – and team – are his.


Jim Harbaugh will be the next coach of the University of Michigan football team.

UM Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett made the announcement at a packed press conference in Ann Arbor.

Harbaugh will be paid roughly $5 million a year, plus incentives, over an eight-year contract.

Four years ago, Michigan changed the way it competes with other states in order to capture new business investment and jobs.

State officials say the changes appear to be working. 

Auto sales grew in 2014
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

It was a record year for recalls in 2014.  But that didn't appear to hamper new car sales in the slightest.

Analysts expect 16.4 million in car sales for the year.

The National Insurance Crime Bureau tracks car thefts by just about any variable you can think of, including holiday car thefts. 

The Bureau's Frank Scafidi says in many states, the lowest number of car thefts take place on Christmas Day, "so maybe there's still a little holiday Christmas spirit among thieves, too."

But the most popular holiday - New Year's Day - is just around the corner.

U.S. Treasury

Almost six years to the day it was bailed out by the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, Ally Financial has exited.

"With this sale, we are exiting the last major TARP investment and winding down the Auto Industry Financing Program," said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew.

Migrant Legal Action Program

President Barack Obama's recent executive order on immigration could be a boost for Michigan's economy, according to a panel of experts convened by Michigan United, a coalition of faith, labor, business, social service, and civil rights members.

The order allows undocumented parents of children legally in the U.S. to apply for a temporary work permit, as long as they have resided in the U.S. for five years or more, undergo a criminal background check, and pay taxes.


Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is changing the name of its American division.

Chrysler (actually Chrysler Group, LLC) is now FCA US LLC.  Or FCA US for short.

FCA explained the change this way:


Beginning Jan. 1, Michigan parents will have to get a certificate from their local health department if they want to opt out of vaccinating their children. The certificate will state they were told about the risks of not vaccinating, both for their kids and the greater community.

Call it a lecture, although the Michigan Department of Community Health is calling it "a conversation."


The Michigan Department of Community Health is urging parents in Michigan to have their children vaccinated against the measles, after five unvaccinated children came down with the highly communicable disease.

"Measles can result in complications that include hospitalization, pneumonia, encephalitis and in severe cases, death," says spokeswoman Jennifer Smith. "So it isn't something to be taken lightly."

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

A bill that would forbid the state Department of Natural Resources from considering biodiversity along with other uses of state lands, such as public recreation, or logging rights, is moving swiftly in the state Legislature.

More than 130 researchers who oppose it hope Gov. Rick Snyder will veto the bill.

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Congressional Democrats say there are enough votes on both sides of the aisle to strike down a Trans-Pacific Partnership if it doesn't include key measures to protect U.S. jobs., including protections against currency manipulation.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency needs to do more to help cities deal with toxic cyanobacteria blooms in Lake Erie.

"Particularly when they see something where you have an entire region could not utilize their own drinking water supply," says Miller, referring to a two-day shutdown of Toledo's water supply in August. 

Michigan State Police

Far fewer people died in traffic accidents over the Thanksgiving holiday period than last year. 

A federal grant put dozens of extra Michigan State Police troopers on the highways between the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after.

U.S. manufacturing is heading for a slowdown, according to IHS Global Insight.

Economist Michael Montgomery says right now, manufacturers are happy because so many companies are replenishing their inventories.

However, "inventories are a short-term plus," says Montgomery. "Over the long term, they don't mean very much at all."

He says it won't be slamming the brakes on. "It's sort of a midcourse correction, as opposed to a big sea change in the world," says Montgomery. "But it's enough to slow growth."


Auto sales continue to perform well in 2014, say analysts, even though one of the usual ingredients in that success is missing -- strong GDP growth.

"The economy has not necessarily cooperated yet," says Jeff Schuster of LMC Automotive.  "Not to the level, that 3% level, which is typically expected to support auto sales.  And we haven't really had that."

Schuster thinks 2014 vehicle sales will end up around 16.4 million.

Jessica Caldwell of is just slightly more optimistic.  She thinks the industry could sell 16.7 million by the end of December.

Morgue File

The Michigan Public Service Commission says there was a nearly four-fold return on utilities' energy efficiency programs in 2013.

State natural gas and electricity providers spent $253 million on programs to weatherize homes and replace inefficient water heaters, HVAC systems, and boilers with efficient models.

The MPSC report says that will save customers $948 million over the life cycle of the replacements and upgrades.

Electric utilities are required to spend 1% of retail sales on energy efficiency programs, and natural gas providers, .75%.