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

4.5 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“[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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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.
Kathy
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I love stories about big business failures (can you say "Enron") so I can try and figure out just what the hell management was thinking. Combine that with the absolute worst POS car mass marketed in the USA and this is a very interesting read. And really, how big an idiot would you have had to have been in order to actually buy this bucket of bolts that was made in eastern Europe. Buy a used anything and you would have five time the car that this pile of tin was. I laughed all the way through reading about the manufacturing process........I mean if you had an iota of a brain you knew the mantra of the soviet assembly man was "you pretend to pay me and I'll pretend to work." and then you go ahead and buy it anyway........well that one is on you and for $5K you learned a car buying lesson that stuck with you for the rest of your life,
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I have a confession to make-I owned a Yugo. I had a regular small compact, and a guy at work was selling his daughter's used Yugo. I purchased it for $500.00 and used it to drive to work. It kept me from putting miles on my other car. It had a little over 39,000 miles on it. I drove it to and from work, and yes I was laughed at. The Yugoslavian made tires were bad, and the sheet metal they made this car of was thin and was rusting away when I was using it. It had a nice radio, but the engine noise was loud, so you had to turn the radio volume up to keep from hearing the engine. Also, when you took it to the mechanics, it cost a lot to fix.

This is a book about American business and how a small car didn't meet the demands of the American market. This is quite good about the history of the car, and the American businessman Bricklin who tried to introduce it. It also revealed all the issues with the car, as I mentioned at the start. It was definitely a bad car for me, but I did put on 25,000 miles onto this car before I gave it away to the junkyard.

I think the author did a good job of detailing the rise and fall of this car. As the movie stated,it was the latest in Serbo-Croatian technology. I thought this book was a good read about a failed car.
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Aside from the Pontiac Aztec, there has been no recent car as ugly as the Yugo and certainly no car as horribly built, marketed and underwritten as the pitiful little auto from the former communist country (Mel Brooks once said of Yugoslavia when he was there making THE TWELVE CHAIRS: "You can't go anywhere-Tito has the car!") that hoped to cash in on the low-price sub-compact market here in the US and ended up with a car that challenges the Ford Edsel for the most ridiculed car ever. Vuic's book is one of those stories that, as you read it, you can see the disaster forming in the distance with no way to escape it or go around it-you just brace yourself for the impact. This car and the company that was formed to make it were perfect examples of Murphy's law: "if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong at the worst possible moment." A fascinating, sad yet funny book that would make a great movie.
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This was as much about Malcomn Bricklin as it was about the Yugo. I have seen Bricklin cars here and there over the years and didn't give them much thought until reading this book. I'm old enough to remember when the Yugo came to the US and it was always a joke, but I could never understand why. My best friend's Dad bought one new and they drove it right into the ground (I think the got about 3-4 years out of it). It was definitely Spartan as far as cars went, but it was exactly what he wanted, a cheap car that he could drive for a year and then give to his kids as a first car. It was interesting to learn about the history of both Bricklin (why did people keep trusting that guy?) and Zastava. Growing up in Michigan I can remember all of the uproar about the Mackinaw Bridge accident as well. The book didn't mention it, but I believe they did finally rule it a suicide. Too bad they didn't announce it in the life of the Yugo.
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