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General Motors Company (GM): One Last Big Pop Before the End

On this day in economic and business history…

Any investor who has lived through a major market crash can attest to the impossibility of calling a market bottom. Stocks tend to turn upward just when all hope is lost — but along the way, there are plenty of huge false bounces leading to premature claims that a bear market has ended. So it was on June 10, 1932, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 8% higher a month before it finally reached the end of the worst bear market in its history.

General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)

The day’s most notable gain was that of non-Dow stock Auburn Automobile, which skyrocketed 40% due to what would later be revealed as stock manipulation by Auburn owner Errett Cord (the company’s tiny float made it highly susceptible to such meddling). Many Dow components rose as well, with industrial bellwether United States Steel Corporation (NYSE:X) advancing despite reports that its unfilled orders had fallen further than expected. This drop was waved off by The New York Times, which blamed “seasonal tendencies” for the 150,000-ton order decline. Its strong performance in spite of the purportedly bad news helped drag many of its Dow peers along for the ride.

Although commentary was generally bullish, the Dow’s close at 48.94 points on June 10 would not be the start of its turnaround. It would take another month, and another 16% loss of value, for the Dow to finally stop breaking Wall Street’s heart and begin to show signs of real life again.

Gas me up

Efforts to build natural-gas-powered vehicles are older than you think. The world’s first gas-turbine-powered bus, built by General Motors Company (NYSE:GM), was revealed to the public on June 10, 1954. It was the first effort to translate developments in nat-gas turbine autos to the heavy-duty market, which remains the primary focus of nat-gas engine development to this day. However, unlike modern nat-gas vehicles, the bus — known as the Turbocruiser and packing a 370-horsepower turbine — was to be powered by something akin to an aircraft jet engine.

The Chicago Daily Tribune reported that “the gas turbine engine not only supplies nearly twice as much power as the diesel normally used, but it also saves more than 1,500 pounds in engine weight.” This assumption proved too optimistic, as further development on the nat-gas turbines for vehicles showed that they would be too polluting and fuel-guzzling to compete with the diesel engines already in common use. Natural-gas transportation never truly took off in the United States, although it has become popular in several other countries in the decades following General Motors Company (NYSE:GM)’s abortive early efforts. That may soon change, as efforts led by Westport Innovations Inc. (USA) (NASDAQ:WPRT) — which bills itself as “the global leader in natural gas engines” — have already put thousands of natural-gas-fueled trucks and buses on American roads.

The article One Last Big Pop Before the End originally appeared on and is written by Alex Planes.

Fool contributor Alex Planes holds no financial position in any company mentioned here. Add him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter @TMFBiggles for more insight into markets, history, and technology.The Motley Fool recommends General Motors and Westport Innovations. The Motley Fool owns shares of Westport Innovations.

Copyright © 1995 – 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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