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.

Pages

Auto
10:48 am
Wed November 28, 2012

If you can't make motorcyclists wear helmets, what CAN you do?

Sandbach transport parade
www.geograph.org

Experts agree that the best way to reduce traffic fatalities involving motorcyclists is mandatory helmet laws.

But only nineteen states have such laws, and the number is smaller than it used to be, as several states in recent years repealed their mandatory helmet laws, including Michigan.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says barring that most effective strategy, Congress should consider letting states use their federal motorcycle safety grants for more things.

Read more
Politics & Government
10:35 am
Wed November 28, 2012

Pontiac mayor says city on "cutting edge" of new survival strategy

Leon Jukowski, Pontiac Mayor
City of Pontiac

The mayor of Pontiac tells Bloomberg News he thinks the city is on the "cutting edge" of strategies to help struggling cities survive, by turning to regionalization of essential services. Leon Jukowski says that's why he's cooperating with an emergency financial manager who has been given the authority he used to have.  Watch the video here.

Health
6:21 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

Research surprise: Human sweat glands do more than sweat

It's not every day that researchers learn something completely new about how the human body works.

To be sure, researchers already knew that human beings have a unique kind of sweat gland, not found in any other animal.

But they didn't know everything those sweat glands do.

Laure Rittié of the University of Michigan says it was assumed that our hair follicles create new skin cells to heal wounds - because that's how rodents and pigs do it.

Read more
Auto
11:03 am
Mon November 26, 2012

Domestics just don't fit into L.A. lifestyle, LA Auto Show kicks off

Angelinos would rather be seen in one of these than a Ford Focus.

The L.A. Auto Show begins this Wednesday. The big car show on the West Coast is increasingly important to carmakers based in Detroit.

GM, Ford and Chrysler have long struggled to sell their cars on the West Coast.   You'll find a lot of Toyotas, a lot of German luxury cars, and a lot of Lexuses; not so many Chevys, Fords and Jeeps.  

Analyst Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.com says domestic car companies are making progress.

At the very least, fewer people on the West Coast give "poor quality" as the reason they don't drive a domestic brand.   Instead, it's image.

"You know, if you live in a wealthy area in L.A., you just simply won't consider a domestic car because you won't fit in," said Toprak.

Toprak says the LA Auto Show is an important venue for Detroit car companies to reach a lot of people and try to change their minds about buying an American brand.

Auto
4:55 pm
Thu November 22, 2012

GM rebuilds its finance arm with Ally purchase

General Motors was a deeply troubled company in 2008.

Eh.  Make that deeply, deeply, deeply troubled.

So was its finance arm, GMAC, which had plunged head-first into subprime mortgage lending, in addition to automotive lending.  That left the company awash in billions of dollars worth of bad mortgages.

The federal government had to figure out a way to bail out both companies - because GM wouldn't survive if it didn't have a place to send customers for car loans, and if its dealers didn't have a place to get financing to buy the inventory.

Read more
Auto
5:42 pm
Tue November 20, 2012

Lukewarm reviews from Consumer Reports for three Detroit-made cars

Dodge Dart
Chrysler

Consumer Reports says it won't put three Detroit cars on its influential "recommended" list - the Dodge Dart, a compact car from Chrysler, the Lincoln MKS, Ford's refreshed luxury sedan , and the Cadillac XTS.

Consumer Reports:  Dart "stalls out on its powertrains."

This is especially bad news for Chrysler, according to Mark Phelan, auto critic for the Detroit Free Press.

Read more
Auto
10:44 pm
Sun November 18, 2012

Old technology meets new in race to CAFE

Lead acid car batteries have a place in the cars of the future.
Sean McEntee Flickr

Automakers and their suppliers are racing to develop technologies to meet strict new CAFE standards.

The rules will require companies to reach a fleet average of 35 miles per gallon, roughly, by 2017, and an eye-popping 54.5 (roughly) miles per gallon, by 2025.

But despite all the stories you've heard about electric cars powered by advanced lithium-ion batteries, chances are, you won't be owning one by 2017 - and probably not by 2025, either.

Electric cars will be just too impractical and expensive for most people in the near future.

Not your grandfather's ICE

Instead, if you buy a new car in the next five years, it's more likely to be powered by that old standby - the internal combustion engine (ICE).

Read more
Auto
5:08 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

An engine so small it can go in your carry-on bag?

This summer, I reported on Ford Motor Company's new three-cylinder eco-boost engine.

Ford has already put this engine into the Focus in Europe, and I was the first  reporter to drive that car on American highways, rather than a small test track.  

Read more
Auto
11:05 am
Tue November 13, 2012

A Transit for the rest of us

Ford Motor Company is getting back into the minivan segment.

Except, Ford is adamantly refusing to call its Transit Connect Wagon a "minivan."

Instead, the company says the seven passenger van is a "people-mover." 

The company believes the wagon will appeal to young families, most likely people who grew up in the back of a minivan themselves and are looking for something different.

Ford says the wagon boasts better fuel economy than the Toyota Sienna minivan.

Ford has been questioned, frequently, for its decision to leave the minivan market years ago. 

Read more
Auto
5:43 pm
Mon November 12, 2012

Road fatalities starting to creep back up

The Michigan legislature will debate about changes to the state's no-fault insurance laws. Commentators shared their thoughts about the potential changes.
user H.L.I.T. Flickr

Road fatalities plunged an unprecedented 26% between 2005 and 2011.

Now, to be sure, driving was still the most dangerous thing that most of us did during that time.  

In 2011, 32,310 people lost their lives in a traffic accident.

But put in context, that number is astonishingly low. 

The last time fewer people died on U.S. roadways was in 1949 - and that was with 83% fewer vehicles on the road.

But there are signs of trouble ahead.

Read more
Auto
11:32 am
Mon November 12, 2012

Ford will improve MyFordTouch, not abandon it

The MyFordTouch display in a Ford vehicle.
Ford Motor Company

Vehicles made by Ford Motor Company dropped to next to last in Consumer Reports' latest reliability survey - in large part, due to problems with the company's MyFordTouch communication system.

But the company has no plans to drop the system.

Consumer Reports is a harsh critic of the company's decision to almost completely abandon traditional dials, buttons and knobs to control many basic functions like heat, air conditioning, and radio. 

Read more
Politics & Government
5:58 pm
Wed November 7, 2012

Strange-but-true 11th Congressional race gets stranger

Voters in the 11th Congressional District in Michigan will send a Democratic UAW activist to Congress for the lame duck session in November and December -- and a Republican Tea Party activist to Congress for the full term starting in January.

Here's how it happened.  (The "why" may never be satisfactorily answered.)

Thaddeus McCotter is the five-term Republican Congressman who until July represented the strongly Republican-leaning 11th Congressional District. 

Read more
Auto
3:21 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

Mulally to stay put as Ford CEO through 2014

Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr.
Credit Ford Motor Company

At least for now, Ford Motor Company has put to rest months - no, make that years - of intense media speculation about when its CEO Alan Mulally will leave the company.

Ford says the 67-year old executive, widely credited with saving the company, will NOT be leaving his position until at least the end of 2014.

Mulally, a 37-year veteran of Boeing, took the helm of Ford in 2006, as the struggling Detroit automaker faced the prospect of bankruptcy, like its rivals Chrysler and General Motors.

Read more
Auto
2:16 pm
Tue October 30, 2012

Ford profits way up in North America, way down in Europe

Ford Motor Company's third quarter profit in North America was its biggest since at least 2000.

But the company's financial performance was dragged down by Europe, where a protracted recession has cripped car sales.

Ford lost $468 million in that region.

The company has a turnaround plan for Europe, and it's very similar to what Ford did to recover in North America:  decisive downsizing, including closing plants, while at the same time investing heavily in future products.

Read more
Politics & Government
12:25 am
Fri October 26, 2012

11th Congressional race pits newcomer against newcomer

If you live in the 11th Congressional District and you're confused right now - it is NOT your fault. Here's a quick recap.

The 11th Congressional District became even more Republican after the most recent redistricting. So five-term incumbent Thaddeus McCotter was considered a shoe-in. That is, until it all fell apart in July.

Turns out some of McCotter's staff didn't get the 2,000 signatures needed to get their boss on the ballot.

Read more
Auto
5:07 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Ford, GM move to stem losses in Europe

Both Ford and General Motors announced steps this week to reduce their losses in Europe.

The region is experiencing a disabling recession that's expected to last at least through 2015.

Car sales are abysmal in Europe, down more than 30-percent from normal demand.

Ford says it may lose a total of one billion dollars in the region for the entire year.

General Motors' losses might be more than that.

Read more
Politics & Government
5:03 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Voting rights hotline and volunteers ready for Election Day

A voting rights group says it will be on call on Election Day.

Volunteers will staff a hotline that voters can call if they experience problems casting a ballot.

Jocelyn Benson is with the Michigan Center for Election Law.

She says the phone number will be on yard signs outside most precincts.

Read more
Politics & Government
2:41 pm
Wed October 24, 2012

Hundreds of Auburn Hills absentee ballots not delivered

On October 3rd, Terry Kowal, City Clerk for Auburn Hills, sent out 1,455 absentee voting ballots to residents who had requested them.

She knew she had a problem about a week later.  Calls started coming in from voters, saying things like, "Where's my ballot?  My husband got his, but I didn't get mine."

"That always raises a red flag for clerks because they're mailed at the same time," Kowal told Michigan Radio.  (And) they're filed alphabetically, so they'd be in the same mail tray."

Read more
Politics & Government
9:35 am
Tue October 23, 2012

Political newcomers vie for 11th Congressional seat prize

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kerry Bentivolio was fired from a teaching job.   In fact, Mr. Bentivolio, although he received written reprimands for yelling at students, left of his own accord.  We greatly regret the error.

 

The 11th Congressional District race is heating up.

The district was until recently represented by Thaddeus McCotter, before he resigned in a scandal over fake nominating petition signatures.

Read more
Auto
4:00 pm
Mon October 22, 2012

Ford not confirming Lincoln's new name: Lincoln Motor Company

The new Lincoln (Motor Company?) MKZ
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company won't confirm an Automotive News report that its Lincoln brand will be re-badged as "Lincoln Motor Company."

Auto News reported this summer that it had obtained a document sent by Ford to a number of marketing firms, in which Ford said it intended to rename the venerable brand -- with a venerable name.

Ford Motor Company acquired the Lincoln Motor Company in 1922.

Read more

Pages