Book Review of “The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car In History”

early Zastava Yugo 45, originally uploaded by Yugo Driver.

I just finished reading the book by Jason Vuic, who is a history professor in Virginia. With his last name, he probably has Serbia or Croatia in his ethnic background. The book was okay but not fantastic. It might be that I am not a car fanatic and most of the book dealt with the US side of Yugo. The writing was also a bit dry with lots of stats, but not many interviews with the characters brought up in the book. Vuic could have brought them to life a bit more and I wish he would have had more access to them. It was important however, that the story of Yugo America be published. In the 1980’s, I was in the market for a cheap, entry-level car when the Yugo came out, and I remember the time well. My parents ended up buying me a Ford EXP and then a Ford Escort instead of a Yugo.

I did enjoy parts of the book, especially the sections that dealt with the Zastava plant in Serbia. The plant is located in Kragujevac, which is the “Detroit” of Serbia. When the Americans came over and wanted to import the car, they were shocked at the conditions at the factory. It really gave me insight into the Communist Era of Yugoslavia. The car was basically a cheaply made Fiat car produced by a socialist industrial complex. Of course it was going to fail in the US. It was also interesting to read about the Croatian immigrants in the USA and their protests against the car. They viewed it as a symbol of Serbian and Communist dominance of Croatia. I didn’t know that they actually hijacked a plane in the US to protest the lack of Croatian independence before the break up of communism. It was also interesting to read about Lawrence Eagleburger, the former US Ambassador to Yugoslavia. I was also interested in reading a bit more about the Mackinac Bridge accident. A woman drove off the bridge that separates the two peninsulas of Michigan in 1987 while driving a Yugo.

It would be cool for the school to buy a Yugo. I would paint it blue and gold and attach a dragon’s head and tail to it. We could use it for sporting events, picnic days, etc.

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