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Friday, 5 December 2008

5 facts you might not know about GM

With the recent financial crisis, GM is currently facing one of the toughest moments in its history, with the American giant very close to a collapse. But here are 5 interesting things you might not know about General Motors and how it changed the automotive industry, a list put together by the folks over at AskMen:

you might not know about GM

1. GM was one of the first companies to extend credit and create a monthly payment system for its customers, by establishing a financing arm in GMAC in 1919. The measure was a huge hit for the company, with all rivals being forced to follow their example in order to keep up with it.

2. GM introduced the two-stroke diesel engine, which will revolutionize railway transport and kill the steam locomotive. The first engine was used in 1930, when Burlingtion Railroad decided to drop steam powered locomotives and replace them with the faster and more efficient diesel ones.

3. GM had an important contribution to open heart surgery. GM Research Laboratories, along with American Heart Association and Detroit surgeon Forest Dodrill, developed the first mechanical heart pump, the Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart. The machine, very similar to a small 12-cylinder engine, allowed doctors to perform surgery on the heart, the first successful open heart surgery taking place in 1952.

4. In 1966, GM introduced the first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. Though the Electrovan project had a lot of problems, including high costs, no infrastructure to support hydrogen and it weighted 7,100 pounds (the project was killed fast), the technology used by GM then was the starting point for modern fuel cell cars, like the Honda FCX Clarity or the Pininfarina Sintesi.

5. GM had a very important contribution to the Apollo XI mission, which, in 1969, took Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and ‘Buzz’ Aldrin to the moon. Few people (including us) knew that, in the early ’60s, GM’s AC Spark Plug division worked with NASA and developed the guidance and navigation systems for the Apollo program, systems which were also used by Boeing for their 747 airplanes.

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