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.


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.

6:32 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Elio Motors nearing launch of $6800, 84 mpg car

Paul Elio with his creation
Elio Motors

As you read this article, just remember, people laughed at Henry Ford, too, when Ford said he wanted to make a motorized vehicle that anyone could afford to buy.

More than 100 years later, Paul Elio has the same dream.  

While Ford's Model T had four wheels, Elio's car has three -- two in front, and one in the back.  And the car will seat only two people, but not side by side.  The passenger seat is directly behind the driver's seat.

That configuration, Elio says, largely explains the car's eye-popping fuel economy of about 84 miles per gallon on the highway. 

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Politics & Government
11:13 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Troy mayor wins re-election after bitter campaign

Mayor Dane Slater City of Troy

Troy Mayor Dane Slater won re-election in a bitterly-waged race against challenger Marty Knollenberg, whose campaign apparently paid for negative robo-calls the weekend before the vote. 

All this for a volunteer position that pays $175 a month only, for expenses. 

"Of course, that's before taxes," he joked.  "That doesn't even pay my cleaning or gas bill, quite honestly." 

Slater decried the city's "dirty" politics, and says he hopes things get better from now on.  "We need to put an end to this dirty trick campaigning," the Mayor told Michigan Radio, "and I'm hoping they recognize, because of what happened tonight, we can stop this nonsense that is tearing us apart." 

Slater was appointed mayor in 2012, after voters recalled Janice Daniels, who gained statewide attention for making anti-gay slurs shortly after her 2011 election. 

Slater says he wants Troy to be known for its positives - safe streets, a strong business environment, a diverse population, and good schools.

5:16 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Teachers vote to work one week without pay at Buena Vista district

Teachers at Buena Vista School District have voted to work without pay for a week. 

They hope the district and the state can figure out a way to keep the doors open through the end of the school year.

The Saginaw area district lost its state aid after officials discovered the school system accepted money for a program it no longer operated.

The state is withholding the district's March, April, and May payments - leaving the already-distressed district without money for payroll.

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Politics & Government
5:21 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Ecorse financial emergency resolved....BUT......

Ecorse fire department
City of Ecorse

State officials say the financial emergency in the city of Ecorse has been resolved.

Under the direction of emergency manager Joyce Parker, the city's nearly $20 million deficit was eliminated.  Its police and fire departments were merged.   

The city's operating costs were reduced by $4.3 million a year, while its revenues were boosted by $2.3 million. 

And Ecorse's bond rating went from "junk" to "A", with the help of special legislation at the state level.

So, Ecorse's emergency manager is stepping down.  Sort of.

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3:29 pm
Mon April 29, 2013

Chrysler profits are down, but Fiat losses are lower

Chrysler made a lower-than-expected profit of $166 million in the first quarter, a decline of 65 percent from last year.  It was not just analysts whose expectations weren't met; the CEO of the company admitted disappointment.  

Sergio Marchionne said he knew the company would be "limping" in the period, due to retooling of the Toledo plant and preparations to launch the new Cherokee, but "we just didn't know how much."

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3:40 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

US Treasury reduced GM ownership to 18 percent since January

The U.S. Treasury is following through on its announcement late last year that it will sell its remaining stake in General Motors in an "orderly" fashion, within 12 to 15 months.

The U.S. Treasury held a 22 percent stake in GM on December 19, 2012.

Since January, the agency has sold 58,392,078 shares of GM stock at an average price of $28.04 each, reducing its GM ownership to 18 percent.

If the Treasury continues the sell-off at that same pace, it will sell its last remaining stock by early April 2014.

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The Environment Report
12:48 pm
Thu April 25, 2013

US EPA to propose rules on wastewater from power plants

DTE's Monroe Power Plant would have to treat its coal slurry under a proposed EPA rule.
cford3 Wikipedia

Burning coal in a power plant creates byproducts called fly ash and bottom ash.  That ash contains a lot of bad stuff - mercury, lead, arsenic, to name a few.

While some plants ship the dry ash to landfills that accept hazardous materials, others mix the ash with water to make a slurry, which is moved into holding ponds.

Eventually, the water in those ponds is released into the nearest waterway.

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9:33 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac is big. It's about to become bigger.

Soccer team
Ultimate Soccer Arenas

Inside the massive Ultimate Soccer Arenas in Pontiac, you can buy a cappucino at the cafe, some new cleats at the sports equipment shop, and then head over to do some of the real business of the place - playing the world's most popular sport on its two full-size indoor fields. 

Home to numerous youth and adult soccer leagues, the facility is usually sold out for regional competitions.

The arena also boasts an indoor lacrosse field - and now its owners plan to expand.

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11:23 am
Wed March 27, 2013

New app tells you if your car has been recalled

SaferCar app

There are plenty of apps for smart phones if you want to play games or catch sales at the stores.

But more and more, the smart phone is becoming a safety device as well.

Recently, the American Red Cross launched an app that will warn you if a tornado has been spotted in your area.

Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is in the app business.

NHTSA has launched a new app that will tell you if there is a recall for your vehicle.  You can also register a safety complaint about your vehicle through the app.

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1:37 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Migrant housing to get more inspections

Migrant worker
Migrant Legal Action Program

Ninety-thousand migrant workers and their families travel to Michigan each year to pick the state's fruit and vegetable crops.

Most travel from Texas and Florida to get here.  That's a long way.

State officials say those workers often have a choice about where they'll work in the summer - and it doesn't have to be Michigan. 

So keeping migrant housing decent and safe is crucial.

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Environment & Science
8:37 pm
Mon March 11, 2013

Michigan Health officials say 2010 oil spill did not contaminate water wells

Workers removing oil from the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There's good news and bad news for residents with drinking water wells near the Kalamazoo River. A massive oil spill contaminated the river in 2010.

State officials tested 150 of the residential water wells for contaminants.

“Now the oil related chemicals, those would have been iron and nickel, they were detected in a few wells but nothing but was levels of concern,” says Angela Minicuci, a spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

6:04 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

16,000 DPS free lunch kids to get food help in summer

Bridge card for Summer EBT program
State of Michigan

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is expanding a pilot program to help children get nutritious meals when their school's free lunch program has shut down for the summer.

For a long time, the agency has funded a program that sets up meal sites at churches and other locations, where children can go to get meals in the summer time.

But many children in rural and inner-city neighborhoods have no site near them, or no safe and reliable way to get there.

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5:28 pm
Tue March 5, 2013

Group pushes for dog safety harnesses that actually work

Center for Pet Safety

The reason we're supposed to wear seat belts is pretty clear to most of us by now.  It's to keep us from becoming human projectiles in a crash.

That's the same reason more and more dog owners are buying safety harnesses for their dogs.  But, unlike seat belts, there is no independent testing of dog harnesses and no national standard.

The Center for Pet Safety hopes to change that.

Last year, the group selected four of the strongest safety harnesses intended for large dogs and tested them with a new dog test dummy on a track.

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Environment & Science
6:27 pm
Mon March 4, 2013

New App warns of tornado approach

Tornado app
Red Cross

The American Red Cross has launched a new app for I-phones and Android phones that could be life-saving.

The app sends out a piercing siren-inspired

alert when a tornado warning has been issued.  The app also sends an alert for severe thunderstorms and flood warnings.

Tim Lipan is Executive Director of the Muskegon Red Cross.   He says the severe weather season is  just around the corner, and Michigan has its fair share of tornados.

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5:20 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Michigan Radio tests fuel economy of C-Max; your mileage will vary

Credit user: Matthias93 / Wikimedia Commons

I recently conducted my own, informal test of the fuel economy of the Ford hybrid crossover, the C-Max.  I was curious to see what number I could achieve, in light of the ongoing controversy.

Consumer Reports and now two lawsuits claim Ford's advertised number of 47 mpg is unreachable.

So, on a 30-degree evening, not too windy, no snow in the forecast, I set out from Ann Arbor, reset the fuel economy calculator, set the cruise control at 55 miles per hour, and drove.

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4:14 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Chrysler to hire 1,250 more workers in Indiana

Chrysler CEO and Indiana Governor

Chrysler says it will add up to 1,250 new jobs in Kokomo, Indiana as it begins to produce a new fuel-efficient nine-speed transmission.

That brings the number of new jobs created since the company emerged from bankruptcy to more than 8,000.

The Detroit-based automaker will invest $375 million in its four transmission and casting plants in Kokomo, Indiana.

Chrysler is already building an eight-speed transmission at the Indiana facilities and it will add a nine-speed transmission next year.

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10:37 am
Fri February 15, 2013

Chocolate. Ford Motor Company. Chocolate.

An "aerated" chocolate bar. Because a photo of a piece of aerated plastic would not get you to click on this story.

Car companies like Ford Motor Company aren't above using gimmicks if it will get reporters to notice something they're doing.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. 

This one worked.

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