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Thread: 1985–1991 Yugo GV

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    1985–1991 Yugo GV

    People made fun of the Edsel—Ford’s $400 million dollar mistake—but its resemblance to a chrome-splattered bus station urinal aside, at least the Edsel worked. Though hideous, you could count on the mechanicals underneath the skin, which were solidly Ford and thus as good as any other car of the era. The dreadful Yugo, on the other hand, was both hard to view on a full stomach and an out-and-out vile little car that stretched the most generous usage of such terms as “shoddy” and “slapped together.”

    This car was less reliable than the exchange rate of an African “people’s republic” or a Haliburton financial disclosure.

    When it was introduced to American buyers in 1985, the Yugo was touted as the least-expensive new car on the market, with an alluring manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of just $3,999, which was thousands less than competitor models from American and Japanese automakers. Unfortunately, it turned out the Yugo was anything but a bargain, teaching folks the hard way about getting what you pay for.

    In this case, what buyers got was a really bad copy of an out-of-date Fiat whose engineering specifications seemed to have been whipped out after an all-night session of Stolichnaya shooters by the nogoodnicks of Soviet Bloc Yugoslavian automaker Zavodi Crvena Zastava, which began manufacturing passenger vehicles for Soviet satellites in the mid-1950s.

    So long as the Iron Curtain held, Western buyers were safe. But as the political climate began to lighten up in the client states of the ossifying Soviet Union, auto-industry wheeler-dealer and ex-Subaru importer Malcolm Bricklin (already infamous for his SVI “safety car”) saw an opportunity to bring what he called a “simple, low-cost car” to the American marketplace. The parts about “simple” and “low cost” were true enough—but the same could be said of a 2x4 or a cinder block. Full disclosure should have included some other adjectives.

    Initial demand for the cars was strong, and the 90 U.S. Yugo dealers that sprang up were accepting checks from people who had not yet even seen the cars, let alone driven one.

    They should have waited.

    The Yugo will likely hold in perpetual ignominy the title of “Worst Car Ever Sold to the American Public.” Some broke down within a few miles of leaving the dealership lot—before the ink was even dry on the sales contract. Few ran for very long without developing expensive, systemic problems ranging from premature engine failure to Superfund-level oil-burning. It wasn’t so much a problem of defects plaguing the car as the car itself being a totality of defective engineering.

    In 1999, during operations against Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, NATO jets bombed the Zastava plant in the former Yugoslavia where Yugos were still being built (surely one of the most successful results of the NATO action). Unfortunately, the tooling for the cars was reportedly saved, and there’s an ugly rumor floating around that Yugo—perhaps with help from Malcolm Bricklin—may make another attempt at bringing the precision engineering and build quality of an ex-Soviet republic back to the West.

    For more, see:
    Last edited by Eric; 08-22-2009 at 07:48 AM.

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