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Publisher's Summary

Six months after its American introduction in 1985, the Yugo was a punch line; within a year, it was a staple of late-night comedy. By 2000, NPR's Car Talk declared it "the worst car of the millennium." And for most Americans that's where the story begins and ends. Hardly.

The short, unhappy life of the car, the men who built it, the men who imported it, and the decade that embraced and discarded it is rollicking and astounding, and it is one of the greatest untold business-cum-morality tales of the 1980s. Mix one rabid entrepreneur, several thousand "good" communists, a willing U.S. State Department, the shortsighted Detroit auto industry, and improvident bankers, shake vigorously, and you’ve got The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History.

Brilliantly re-creating the amazing confluence of events that produced the Yugo, Yugoslav expert Jason Vuic uproariously tells the story of the car that became an international joke: The American CEO who happens upon a Yugo right when his company needs to find a new import or go under. A State Department eager to aid Yugoslavia's nonaligned communist government. Zastava Automobiles, which overhauls its factory to produce an American-ready Yugo in six months. And a hole left by Detroit in the cheap subcompact market that creates a race to the bottom that leaves the the bottom.

©2010 Jason Vuic (P)2010 Tantor

Critic Reviews

“This is a fun read about a heap of junk that should make anyone feel better about having to take their car to a repair shop.” ( Publishers Weekly)

What members say

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  • Roy
  • Beaumont, TX, United States
  • 08-25-10

Flim Flam at its Best

This is a wonderfully entertaining and humorous story about the introduction of the little Yugo - the worse car ever - to the US. Individuals interested in business history will find this book interesting. Car buffs may also enjoy the book, though those expecting technical specs, road tests, and other information will be disappointed. I actually found the sections dealing with Subaru, early Honda introductions, and - in particular - the involvement of Malcolm Bricklin et al very informative.

In sum, this book is well written and the reading of Synnestvedt is very good. Unless you are a motorhead, this might well be an interesting diversion for you. Thank you Jason Vuic for a great job.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Better Than The Car!

What a fun read! If you like business, cars or "Americana"---pop culture, you'll enjoy this book. It's got it all...I'm not a "car" guy but really enjoyed this book. A lot of fun.

Oddly, I don't know what to make of the central character. Crook? Unlucky? Both?

Read it and then draw your own conclusions---then Google the guy! He's got a NEW venture in cars...

Chris Reich

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Sean
  • Los Angeles, CA, United States
  • 05-17-13

Fascinating read - endless conversation material

What made the experience of listening to The Yugo the most enjoyable?

I'm not a car guy, but I knew the Yugo was a terrible car. I never knew the story, and I couldn't have guessed that there were still elements still left in play! The almost 40 year story of the Yugo was fascinating, and it's a lot of fun to talk about with friends because, let's face it: everybody knows the Yugo was terrible, but not a lot of people remember why.

Who was your favorite character and why?


Have you listened to any of Erik Synnestvedt’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I haven't listened to any of Erik's other performances, but he has a variable enough tone that I always found myself paying attention

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

And you thought your grandmother's car was terrible.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Having grown up in Dearborn...

And worked for Ford's (didn't we wall), I have to say that this was an interesting account of an interesting car: and the psyche and ethos of the times. Slightly pre-Michael Milken, the protagonist of this story is of the same character, though, perhaps of less real passion. I got a kick out of this "snapshot in time" of the industry, and also know that major car best-sellers AND flops were made upon even less due diligence, well into the 90's and early 2000's. I also learned stuff about Yugoslavia, that combined with my fictional interests of late, have combined in an oddly interesting way. Worth a discounted buy if you're just a casual listener, maybe more if you've been there and done that.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • L
  • Centennial, CO, United States
  • 03-27-11

A Little Too Much Detail

I bought this book because of my interest in scams, ruthless marketing and shameless misrepresentation. It did not disappoint. Sadly I got more detail about the auto industry than I bargained for. I would have preferred an abridged edition, but I really was very amusing on the whole.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • kevin
  • elk grove, CA, United States
  • 08-11-10

Great book

You might think you know about the Yugo but chances are you really don't know the half of it. I was surprised how much actually was going on behind the scenes. For instance how much politics, American and world had to do with both its success and failure. It's also an interesting exposé of sorts on Malcolm Bricklin, the man who brought the Yugo to America. It follows the ups and many more downs of his career. By the way you don't need to be a car nut to find this book enjoyable. Narration is great too.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Darren
  • Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 06-23-10

Definitely not a clunker

Wonderfully enjoyable in the same perverse way demolition derbies are enjoyable; You know there's going to be mayhem, you're just there to watch how it happens. Vuic does a great job of bringing the whole Yugo story to life with rich detail, and then shows how it all fits in the context of the times.

The Narrator is a little stilted and it may be a chapter too long but those are nits. In the end it's a great listen for car buffs and regular folks alike.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Costs, Higher Ed, and the Yugo

Q. Why don't Yugo's sustain much damage in a front-end collision?
A. The tow truck takes the impact.

Q. Why does a Yugo have rear a window defroster?
A. To keep your hands warm as you push it.

--from "The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History" by Jason Vuic.

What can this great book about the sad and untimely demise of Yugo teach us about higher education?

I probably would not add this book to all the great list of sources on the economics of higher ed that you have been providing. My plan is to go through your references and ideas, and try to make some sense of higher ed economics for myself. Thank you for all the sources, ideas, and analysis.

Linking the Yugo to Higher Ed Economics:

Cars are one of those categories where over the past five decades costs have come down significantly, while quality has gone consistently up. We can buy a much more reliable, safer, better performing, roomier, and longer lasting car for the same (real) dollars today than at any time in the past. Higher ed has clearly gone in the other direction. The Yugo story is perhaps the exception to this rule. Is the Yugo a cautionary tale about the wisdom of going for the "cheapest" educational structure?

Even though the Yugo was a terrible car, we also learn from Vuic's delightful book that (at least initially) the Yugo was a popular car. People were lined up at the dealerships with cash in hand, ready to plunk down deposits. At $4,000, the Yugo created its own category of cheap transportation. Is there a similar latent demand for really affordable higher education? Or does the Yugo prove that "cheap" and "quality" are not compatible?

The Yugo was so cheap because it was built on a very old (Fiat) design, and put together (badly) by very low-paid workers. Can I send my girls to an Eastern European country to go to college? The University of Ljubljana, the largest university in Slovenia with 64,000 students, might be a reasonable option for my kids when they leave home in 2015 and 2017.

The Yugo did not have to be so bad. One of the take home messages of Vuic's book is how incompetent the American Yugo ownership and management was. Rather than investing dollars in the car's quality, the Yugo America founders paid themselves big salaries, plowed the money into other businesses, and rode around in helicopters. Would things have been different if those dollars were spent on the car? They also spent tons of money on advertising, money today that could be saved with smart use of the web. So maybe an educational provider that does not spend money on advertising or marketing, and keeps management costs down, could provide a quality educational start-up for a reasonable cost.

Any Yugo owners out there?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • ken
  • Discovery Bay, CA, United States
  • 01-23-12

Good driving fodder.

It was an interesting story. I always wondered about the Yugo. How did it get here.
Why was it so bad?

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Walter
  • Wheaton, IL, United States
  • 10-24-11

Auto Wreck

Fascinating in the much the same way that gawkers find the wreckage of an auto collision fascinating. You can't make this stuff up!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful