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.

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Auto
10:06 am
Fri February 15, 2013

GM profit down, but "seeds planted" for growth, says CEO

New 2014 GMC Sierra. This vehicle and 2014 Chevy Silverado will be big profit generators for GM
General Motors

General Motors made nearly $5 billion in 2012.

That's down a lot from 2011, when the company made $7.6 billion.

But GM CEO Dan Akerson says it was a strong year for the company nonetheless.

He says G-M "planted the seeds of growth in every region of the world."

The Detroit automaker reduced its pension obligations, bought an international finance division, and put new cars in the pipeline for 2013 and beyond.

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Auto
5:38 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Vehicles hit all-time dependability record

2010 Ram Laramie
Chrysler

J.D. Power reports that average vehicle dependability was better than any year since the study began in 1989.

The study looks at problems reported for three-year-old vehicles.  So, the 2013 study looks at vehicles purchased in 2010.

On average, there were 126 problems reported for every 100 vehicles - or, put another way, not much more than one problem per vehicle.

Lexus once again led the pack, improving from 86 problems per 100 last year, to 71 this year.

Porsche followed with 94, and Lincoln was third best, with 112.

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Auto
10:52 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Ford wants (big) piece of Toyota's Prius hybrid pie

Ford C-Max hybrid
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company set an all-time record for hybrid sales in December, selling nearly 8,000.  About half were C-Max sales, and about half, the hybrid version of the Fusion.

The company also beat its previous January record for hybrid sales by more than 500%.

Granted, the total number of hybrid sales for the company isn't much compared to its higher-volume sellers.  Ford sold more than 19,000 non-hybrid Fusions in January, dwarfing the hybrid Fusion sales of 3,043.

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Auto
12:02 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Group questions MPG claims for turbo engines

Ford CEO Alan Mulally with 3 cyl turbo engine
Ford Motor Company

Many of the claims for better fuel economy from new turbo-charged engines are more hype than reality, according to tests by Consumer Reports, the independent consumer advocacy group.

The agency tested a number of vehicles that offer regular four or eight cylinder engines, and compared them to the turbo-charged version.  Turbo-charging is a technology that gets more power from a smaller engine with direct injection of extra spurts of air and fuel.

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Auto
4:27 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Chrysler earnings jump, Fiat's fall, in 2012

Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne
Chrysler

Chrysler has gone from being the automaker nobody wanted, to the goose that lays the golden egg for its majority owner, Fiat.

While Chrysler made $1.7 billion in 2012, Fiat lost $1.4 billion, as the fiscal crisis in Europe deepened, creating a new bottom for car sales that even the most pessimistic analysts didn't see foresee.

But while Chrysler is making money, and Fiat is losing it, the two companies' CEO, Sergio Marchionne, reiterated in an analyst and media conference call that he has no intention of stripping cash from Chrysler to help Fiat.

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Auto
10:44 am
Fri January 25, 2013

The dark side of Detroit's auto show: dreaded scrums

Reporter Sharon Carty looks in camera during a scrum with former General Motors Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre.
Jeff Kowalsky


For the average person, there's a lot of "wow" at the North American International Auto Show.

But for reporters and auto company executives, that "wow" can sometimes be more like "ow."

Especially during the impromptu, free-for-all press conferences that are known as "scrums."

Problem is, nobody tells you what a scrum is before you attend your first Detroit auto show.

They all wait until it's too late to back out. It's almost a kind of hazing.

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Auto
1:44 pm
Wed January 16, 2013

Henry Ford giving tours at auto show

Actors portraying Henry Ford
Ford Motor Company

This year's North American International Auto Show coincides with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of Henry Ford's birth.

Ford Motor Company is giving people an opportunity to meet the great inventor and businessman.

Ford has hired actors to represent Henry Ford at different stages of his life.

People can sign up for a tour of the Ford exhibit led by one of eight Henrys.

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Auto
12:25 am
Mon January 14, 2013

Car companies starting auto show earlier

The C7 Corvette - aka Stingray
General Motors

Press days for Detroit's North American International Auto Show "officially" begin Monday morning - but it's become something of a recent tradition to show an especially important car the night before.

That's what GM did with the seventh-generation Corvette, which it calls the "Stingray" in homage to the much-loved 1963 Corvette.

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Auto
3:06 pm
Sat January 12, 2013

Renovations to Cobo Center may steal the spotlight at the auto show

North American International Auto Show (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The North American International Auto Show in Detroit kicks off on Monday with preview days for the international press.

The show opens to the public next Saturday.   One of the highlights this year may not even be a car.

Auto show vice chairman Bob Schuman is pretty confident that everyone who goes to the show will be talking about the new Corvette, Chevy's top of the line sports car.   But they may also be talking about the ongoing Cobo renovation. Cobo has a new atrium that opens up the convention center to a view of the river and the Windsor skyline.

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Auto
11:27 am
Fri January 11, 2013

Ford plans to hire 2,200 salaried workers this year

Ford headquarters in Dearborn.
Ford

Ford Motor Company says it will hire 2,200 salaried workers this year.

It's the company's largest single-year increase of salaried workers in more than a decade.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford's President of the Americas, says the company doesn't anticipate trouble finding the right kind of people.

That's in contrast to before the recession when car companies sometimes couldn't find enough people interested in a career in the auto industry.

"Look at the types of technology you get to work on now, the vehicle is becoming so advanced, with computers, with software, with voice recognition, with sensors, that we are attracting a level of interest in people because of what's happening with the product itself becoming far more advanced," said Hinrichs.

Ford has about 28,500 salaried workers in North America.

Auto
3:09 pm
Thu January 3, 2013

Fiat seeks to gain another stake in Chrysler from VEBA

Italian automaker Fiat, already Chrysler's majority owner, has announced plans to acquire another stake in the Detroit car company.

Fiat currently owns 58.57 percent of Chrysler.  The rest is held by VEBA - the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association.  The VEBA was given stock in Chrysler in lieu of cash payments to cover union retiree health care costs, which were shifted to the UAW in 2007.

Fiat says it intends to exercise an option for 3.3% of VEBA's stock, for $198 million.

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Politics & Government
5:00 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

Warren Mayor says "not too late" to fight right-to-work

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts  is going on the warpath against Michigan's new right-to-work law, and his weapon? Bumper stickers.

Fouts is providing bumper stickers to anyone who calls his office asking for one; the stickers read, "Right to work means lower wages and benefits."

Fouts's father was a U-A-W worker, who told him the reason the family had a roof over its head, and food on the table, was because of the union.

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Auto
11:56 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Ford "futurist" pays attention to everything but cars

Sheryl Connelly, Ford's Futurist
Ford Motor Company

Interview with Sheryl Connelly, Ford Motor Company's futurist

I recently interviewed Sheryl Connelly, Ford Motor Company's manager of Global Trends and Future.  Call her "futurist" for short.   Sheryl spoke with me about how she goes about "predicting" the future, and how it helps Ford develop and market its vehicles, and about Ford's latest report, "Looking Further With Ford: 13 Trends For 2013."

Q:  I want to talk with you first about your job.  What has Ford tasked you with doing?

A:  What most people don't realize is that it takes three years to bring a vehicle to market, so even if we come up with some sort of breakthrough or innovation today, it may not resonate or be relevant by the time the rubber hits the road.  And since we can't predict the future, what we do is track trends, in social, technological, economic, environmental and political arenas, because we think this will give us some insight into the forces that will shape consumers attitudes and behaviors.  It's never looking at automotive; in fact we try to stay away from that for the work that I do, so we come up with the insights, and then I pass it off to the designers, engineers and the marketing teams, that take their subject matter expertise and turn it into something meaningful in terms of product offerings.

Q:  So how do you track trends?  Are you constantly on Twitter or how do you do it?

A: Well, I've been doing it for nine years, so it's gotten a little easier over time, but it's really about pattern recognition -- looking for recurring themes, and seeing things that re-emerge and starting to have an eye for something, what are the drivers behind this, why does this seem like it's going to be important, and will it have staying power?

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Politics & Government
10:35 am
Thu December 13, 2012

Reuters: RTW planned for 2 years; not last-minute push

Reuters' Rick Carey and Bernie Woodall dug into the process by which right to work legislation was passed in the union stronghold of Michigan, and found that it was the result of dogged, behind-the-scenes work by some of Michigan's newest legislators.

That runs contrary to the idea in many published reports that the legislation took on a sudden life of its own, a kind of "seize the day" mentality, after the defeat of Proposal 2 in November.

From the story:

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Politics & Government
6:23 am
Mon December 10, 2012

Detroit edging closer to an emergency financial manager

(File photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A committee overseeing Detroit's finances begins a review today that could culminate in the appointment of an emergency financial manager for the state's largest city.

But the City's mayor says he and his staff aren't sitting on their hands in the meantime.

Dave Bing says he understands why Governor Snyder is frustrated with the slow pace of action and why he's talking more about the prospect of an emergency financial manager for Detroit.

“It's not a veiled threat, the reality is if we don't get some of these milestones implemented…he has no choice,” says Bing.

Politics & Government
6:08 am
Mon December 10, 2012

President Obama to speak about the 'fiscal cliff' today in Michigan

Pres. Barack Obama (official portrait)
White House

President Obama will visit a Redford Township factory today - as part of his effort to galvanize support for his plan to avert the fiscal cliff.

The President's visit also comes at a high stakes time for the United Auto Workers.

The Republican-controlled state legislature is poised to vote tomorrow on bills to make Michigan, the birthplace of the UAW,  a so called right to work state.   That would mean workers in unionized facilities like Detroit Diesel in Redford could opt out of paying union dues.

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Health
5:42 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Early stage breast cancer patients get too many tests

A new study finds about a quarter of people with early stages of breast cancer get expensive tests they don't need.

Advanced imaging - like CAT scans, PET scans, or bone scans - are usually not recommended for people with ductal carcinoma in situ, stage one or stage two breast cancer.

Tara Breslin is a cancer surgeon at the University of Michigan.

She says it's not clear who is asking for the extra scans, but it could be both doctors and patients.

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Economy
1:27 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

What did we get for all those tax breaks to corporations?

A New York Times analysis casts doubt on the effectiveness of all those tax breaks Michigan cities have been giving to corporations in return for new jobs - or just to keep them from leaving town.

The story prominently features tax breaks given to General Motors, before the automaker filed for bankruptcy.

In the end, the money that towns across America gave General Motors did not matter.....

Auto
9:35 pm
Sun December 2, 2012

Ford brings back Lincoln Motor Company name

Ford Motor Company is reaching back into its past, renaming Lincoln, its luxury brand, the "Lincoln Motor Company."

That's the name the company had before Ford acquired it in 1922.

The new name goes with a new design studio and a new car, the MKZ, the first of four Lincolns planned in the next three years.

The Lincoln brand plummeted in popularity and quality in recent years, as Ford focused its attention and resources first on avoiding GM and Chrysler's fate.  Both companies had to file for bankruptcy during the recession.

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Auto
4:43 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Autoblopnik's funny take on Honda Civic: L.A. Auto Show

Honda revealed its refreshed Civic at the L.A. Auto Show this week.

The automaker made some very significant changes to the car, just a year after the new version was launched.

Consumer Reports and many auto reviewers slammed the car's styling and interior.   

Despite that, customers turned a blind eye to the criticism, making the Civic the best-selling compact car in the U.S. this year.

The always irreverant website Autoblopnik has a nice, Onion-style entry about the car and the controversy.

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