Believe it or not, at one time diesel power, invented by Rudolph Diesel in in the early 1900s, almost didn’t make it into the mainstream of the American automobile industry.
That is, until Clessie Lyle Cummins, a self-taught mechanic and inventor, saw the potential and founded Cummins Engine in 1919 in Columbus, Ind. Cummins spent nearly a decade working to find the commercial potential of the invention until he decided to put the engine into a used Packard limousine, took it for a spin with local financier William Glanton Irwin on Christmas Day in 1929, and promptly invented the diesel automobile.
Irwin’s excitement led to an infusion of cash into the company, which helped fuel a number of speed and endurance records in the coming years, and the success led to Cummins’ gaining a foothold as an engine supplier to the trucking industry.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Cummins (NYSE:CMI) has more than 5,200 dealer locations, 500 distribution facilities and 40,000 employees, powering out $18 billion in revenues and nearly $2 billion in net income. The company operates in four segments: Cummins Engine, Cummins Power Generation, Components and Distribution, each independent but complementary to the overall Cummins business model and goals.
The company never has abandoned its hometown Columbus, Ind., roots, and continues to be innovative force in the industry.
So the next time you see an 18-wheel, diesel-powered semi rolling down the highway, remember who got that truck started: Cummins.
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Marc Bastow is an Assistant Editor of InvestorPlace. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.