Friday, 28 July 2017



The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History (2010) | By Jason Vuic



Text by Laura Wolfs for Balkan Insight   
No other car, save perhaps the equally admired Skoda, has inspired as many jokes as the Yugo, the product of “cutting edge” technology from the former Yugoslavia which was ranked by US auto journalists as only the eighth most deadly car on the road.

The Yugo lives on in America “as a retro-eighties joke”, says author, Jason Vuic, an assistant professor of modern European history at Bridgewater College in Virginia. In his book he mentions some of the favourites such as “What’s included in every Yugo owner’s manual? A bus schedule.” “What do you call a Yugo with brakes? Customized.”

The name of the infamous car originates not, as you might think, from the name of the socialist federation, but from the ‘jugo’ a south-easterly wind on the Adriatic. A breezy name, but a less breezy vehicle.

In his book Vuic describes how American automotive entrepreneur Malcolm Bricklin, father of the no less ridiculous ‘Bricklin’ sports car which was produced without door locks, due to a supplier mix up, had the idea to bring what was at that point the cheapest car in the world to the US.

When the Yugo entered the American market in 1985 it was the fastest selling European car on the market. Yugo America sold 1,050 cars in one day - to start with. That sales volume was not maintained and the standstill in sales may have mirrored the number of immobile Yugos.

Remember: “Why does a Yugo have rear a window defroster? To keep your hands warm as you push it.”

Prophetically named alongside New Coke as one of the most outstanding products of 1985 the Yugo sank from the market almost as quickly.

Vuic’s book is not all jokes though. He even manages to integrate geopolitics into the story. Yugoslavia was favoured in US foreign policy because unlike many of its communist counterparts it was a neutral state and because of its geographic position, the US had a clear interest in staying on friendly terms with Yugoslavia.

Vuic succeeds in his book to write a compelling story of 1980s American Pop-Culture, the Cold War and the one and only communist vehicle that ever got its feet on the American shore. If you are lucky, you might still be able to get your hands on one here. I hear that you can hire a Yugo for €20 for three days – as long as you don’t drive more than 150km, but we don’t really have to worry about that, do we?

This article is courtesy of Balkan Insight, the online publication of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, which contains analytical reports, in-depth analyses and investigations and news items from throughout the region covering major challenges of the political, social and economic transition in the Balkans.

Read more about the Yugo on BalkanTravellers.com

 

 

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