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The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History Hardcover – March 2, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] rollicking chronicle of the rise and fall of the homely little hatchback that couldn’t . . . [Jason Vuic] weaves a tale about crazy socialist factories, just-as-crazy Western financial practices, geopolitics in the days of the Cold War and an American public yearning for affordable cars—all combined with the ‘cutting edge Serbo-Croatian technology,’ as the Yugo was referred to in the spoof movie version of ‘Dragnet’ . . . Mr. Vuic is as hard on the Western capitalism that fleetingly embraced the car as he is on the socialist system that produced it.” —Dick Teresi, Wall Street Journal
“Vuic’s book is thoroughly researched, with hundreds of annotations. Its true genius, however, is its fine focus not on the Yugo itself, but on Bricklin the man—an outsized opportunist, a thick-skinned mega-capitalist whose modus operandi was to overpromise and underdeliver, a Mr. Magoo oblivious to the wreckage all around him, a charming marketing manipulator who realizes he has crossed the line only when the subpoenas start flying. In short, a fascinating story well told.” —John Phillips, Car and Driver
“Now, Jason Vuic has written an entire book about this wheezing shitbox. Entitled The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History, the book is an in-depth, brisk, and hilarious chronicle of the economic, mechanical, political, and cultural calamities that conspired to unleash this motorized monster on the American populace.” —Brett Berk, Vanity Fair Daily
“A wonderfully sunny—and thoroughly researched—study of this iconic failure.” —Stephen Lowman, Washington Post
“In his entertaining drive through the 1980s, Mr. Vuic uses the fatally well-publicized Yugo as the hook for a funny, tightly written book traversing politics, economics, marketing, communications, consumer safety (and dread)—and lots of spin.” —Carlo Wolff, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Jason Vuic, a professor of modern European history, could have easily written a straightforward takedown of the most maligned automobile since the Ford Pinto. Instead, he uses the Yugo as a vehicle for an insightful and witty look at car culture, a half-century of Balkan history, and the last decade of the Cold War.” —Sonja Sharp, Mother Jones
“As historian Jason Vuic chronicles in his captivating, unexpected new book, for a fleeting moment amid the clichéd go-go excesses of the 1980s, the $3,995 Yugo—loosely based on a Fiat and produced by a one-time arms manufacturer called Zastava—captured the wallets, if not exactly the hearts, of Americans and introduced some oddball charm and entrepreneurial zest into the staid confines of the U.S. auto market. Vuic's history is a fascinating read, and an instructive one for the present moment.” —Tom Vanderbilt, Slate
“Jason Vuic provides a thoroughly researched and illuminating account of what turned into a spectacular disaster.” —The Economist
“A meticulous wide-ranging postmortem of a car that, at $3,990 brand new, was still overpriced.” —Kevin Canfield, Star Tribune (Minneapolis-St. Paul)
“Entertaining and comprehensive.” —Cary Darling, Star-Telegram (Dallas-Fort Worth)
“In a world where even our most reliable cars can turn out to be lemons (cough, Toyota), it’s really something to be the world’s worst car. That distinction belongs to the Yugo, subject of the enormously entertaining The Yugo . . . Read it if you love cars, or just want to experience the strange story of someone determined to give lemons life.” —Very Short List
“If the Yugo was a lemon, Jason Vuic’s surprising page-turner is the lemonade: even though we know how it’s going to end (watch out for the iceberg, Yugo!), we’re held rapt by Vuic’s careful reconstruction of the peculiar history of a terrible idea.” —Flavorwire
“Creating the Yugo required dozens of corporations, thousands of Yugoslavians, international diplomacy, a Cold War, marketing genius, consumer idiocy, and major screw-ups from not just one political ideology but all of them. Any knucklehead with a lawnmower engine and a monkey wrench can build a bad car. It took Communism, Socialism and Capitalism to build a Yugo. And Jason Vuic has the story.” —PJ O’Rourke
“A crosscultural tale of the little car that couldn't. Thoroughly researched, tellingly told—and hilarious!” —Phil Patton, author of Bug: The Strange Mutations of the World’s Most Famous Automobile
“Testimony to the dishonesty, gullibility, greed, cynicism, stupidity and incompetence of virtually everyone involved in attempting to palm off a ramshackle Balkan-made leftover on the hapless American car buyer who turned out not to be so hapless after all.  The saga of the Yugo proves that failure may not be as instructive as success, but its lots more entertaining.” —Bruce McCall, author of Marveltown
“Was the Yugo the worst car in history? No, although it wasn’t far behind such automotive insults as the Trabant. Is this the most enjoyable car book of the year? Yes! Few car books can match Jason Vuic’s supporting cast of earnest automotive executives, politicians and out-and-out hucksters. Chapter after chapter is filled with such outrageous actions in the name of selling cars that you have to keep repeating this mantra: ‘It’s not libel if it’s true.’ ” —James B. Treece, Industry Editor, Automotive News
“A hoot for car enthusiasts and a case study for business schools.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Here's all you ever wanted to know about the Yugo—and more! . . . Well researched, quite readable, and leavened with bits of humor.” —Susan Hurst, Library Journal

About the Author

Jason Vuic is an assistant professor of modern European history at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia. He lives in Staunton, Virginia, with his wife, Kara.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809098911
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809098910
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #901,830 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By T. Hutton on March 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a former Yugo owner I had to read this book. But it's more than a book about the Yugo. It's about American excess, why communism failed, a business case study, and a brief history of Yugoslavia. All in just 213 pages. The pacing is brisk. The writing is impeccably clear and easy to read. It is well researched both through printed sources and interviews the author himself conducted. This book will probably stand as the authoritative history of the Yugo in America. Why would anyone write another? Very well done Professer Vuic.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kathleen Roberts on March 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book! Jason Vuic weaves a tale that is so fascinating (and often hilarious) that I couldn't put this book down. I found myself laughing out loud at Vuic's stories of the Serbian autoworkers' booze-swilling on the assembly line floor and the cars rolling out of the factory with the rust marks already in place. I kept turning to my husband and saying, "You just won't believe this!" Not only is it a darn good story, it's also well-researched history. The footnotes are almost as interesting as the text itself. If you're a car enthusiast, a Cold War history buff, or simply lived through the 80s, you'll love this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D_shrink VINE VOICE on May 18, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very unique way to present an abbreviated history of the former Yugoslavia Federation and especially its Serbian state through its second largest industrial complex the the Zastava automobile complex that began producing the car known in America as the Yugo. The internal strife between the various Yugoslav states and the communist regimes way of doing things is well documented. But the majority of the book is devoted to the Malcolm Bricklin and associates who were the importers of the Yugo in America. He had also built a nasty piece of steel called the Bricklin, as he was a rather ego-maniacal personality. He had far too many other failed ventures to discuss in a short review, but needless to say most people have heard of the various companies from the Handyman Hardware stores of the 1960's to the Proton automobile manufactured in Malaysia by Mitsubishi. Mr. Brickln was rather a rogue and an idea man rather than a nuts and bolts type of entrepreneur. He lived large and fast flying his own helicopter and renting out the Tavern on the green for a dealers breakfast, but not checking the guest list, so that a bunch of freeloaders came in for the free grub. The book is written in a factual but still quite humorous manner. The book is listed at 262pp, but the actual reading material stops on page 213, with the rest being supporting notes. The nice thing about the author's writing is that he doesn't bother the reader continually by stopping to say who said what to whom, but allows you to look on the index pages to see where he got his information. The author is an asst. professor of European History and I would be interested in taking a class from him were I still in the college age group. Try the book, you'll not want to put it down until you see how it ends; well all except for the Yugo itself. But then again even that is in debate as the last chapter indicates it may still arise with a African nameplate in the future.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By TV Tuner on April 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought the audio CD version,and I am glad I did.The voice of the narrator is just perfect for the task of telling the tale of Yugoslavia,Malcolm Bricklin,and the lowly Yugo.
What an amazing story it is.Who would have ever imagined so many behind the scenes goings on over the whole Yugo America operation.The average carbuyer would never realize the full story of the struggle that Yugo faced in marketing their low budget car here,in a country that treated it with total disgust.The audio version is very easy to get hooked on,wanting more even after the final chapter has run.
Its easy to see,thanks to this expose,that Yugo America was a fantasy-driven importer,the car was not USA-worthy,Zastava was a shoddy manufacturer,and those Yugo dealers were lied to and taken for a ride,and they seemingly turned hostile towards unfortunate Yugo owners.The whole enterprise was a scam,one of the biggest scams ever foisted on America,and this tale is one amazing account of one unbelieveable era in time.A time,that with todays market,and environmental/regulative demands,will never come again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By matt8386 VINE VOICE on October 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The funny parts of this book are the jokes about the Yugo and what a terrible car it was. Not so funny for those who bought one, or even worse, were involved in the investments to bring the Yugoslavian import to American. The tale of the car itself is simple. It was a Fiat knock off, poorly built, underpowered but cheap. This book is really about the man Malcolm Bricklin who conned a lot of folks into investing in his idea to sell the Yugo in the US.

Macklin obviously had a talent for selling his ideas. Author Jason Vuic calling Macklin an "entrepreneur" is generous. Crook, thief, con-artist are also words that may apply. Much of the money that was to go to improve the quality of the car went instead into Macklin's home, lavish offices and lots of family on the payroll. The perfect storm of greed and lack of common sense on the part of the investors eventually wore off and led to the bankruptcy of Macklin, his company, and the Yugo. At times, it reminded me of the problems that led up to the over inflation of the US housing industry, its collapse and bankruptcy of many folks who were seduced by the thought of an easy profit.

This is a very quick, entertaining, informative book. Great read for anyone who ever owned a Yugo, fans of the automobile industry or those who want to experience the thrill of pulling off a dream and the collapse of a dream due to greed.
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