As the Congressional debates teeter on the topic of a massive financial bailout for the U.S. automotive industry, here is a list of things GM accomplished during their 100-year run.
1. GM pioneered the car payment
In 1919, GM established a financing division which is currently still around today. GMAC was the first company to utilize credit by creating monthly payments for consumers. We now realize this makes it substantially easier for people to buy more cars, even if they don't really have the money.. This might be where the credit crisis of today actually began. Instead of saving money to purchase things we desperately need, they developed a community of impulse buyers with easy access to abuse credit lines.
2. GM killed the steam locomotive
Long before anyone asked who at GM killed the electric car, the company had killed another old innovation: the steam locomotive. They were able to accomplish these feat by introducing a vastly more efficient technology in the two-stroke diesel engine! Although the picture above might seem like a GM locomotive, it's actually a pristine GM Futurliner which could have possibly borrowed design elements from early trains. These were used during the Parade of Progress during 1940-1941 and again from 1953-1953.
3. GM helped pioneer open heart surgery
Detroit surgeon, Dr. Forest Dodrill, wanted to develop something to take the heart's role of pumping blood in the event of a surgery. He teamed up with scientists from the nearby GM Research Labs and the American Heart Association to introduce the first mechanical heart pump, the Dodrill-GMR Mechanical Heart.
4. GM created the first fuel cell vehicle
The first hydrogen fuel cell vehicle was General Motor's 1966 Electrovan. The project ended for many of the same reasons later fuel cell vehicles have struggled: cost-prohibitive, dangerous to operate, no infrastructure to supporty hydrogen, and it was simply inefficient at 7,100 pounds.
5. GM put a man on the moon
GM has been involved with the NASA program since the early 1960's. They were first tapped by NASA to build the guidance and navigation systems for the Apollo space program. Later they contributed in the design of the mobility system for the Lunar Roving Vehicle.