Saturday, April 17, 2010

Jason Vuic

Jason Vuic is an assistant professor of modern European history at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia, and author of The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History.

From his interview with Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace:

Ryssdal: How did it come to pass that this car wound up in the United States? It's not your V8, gas-guzzling muscle car, that's for sure.

Vuic: Well, there were really three factors that brought the Yugo to the United States. One was that in the 1980s, Japanese and American manufacturers completely vacated the very low end of the market. Low-cost cars were simply not profitable.

The second thing was Yugoslavia itself. It was an independent communist country that the United States wanted to support. It deprived the Soviets of the Mediterranean Sea and Mediterranean ports, so we tried to bring over Yugoslav goods and aid the government in any way. I mean, the Yugo wasn't paid with taxes, but our ambassador drove around Belgrade in a yellow Yugo with little American flags on the hoods.

And then third, there was Malcolm Bricklin. He's this phenomenal entrepreneur -- he's great at starting businesses, getting people excited, getting the press excited. He founded Subaru of America and then moved onto a Canadian car, which failed miserably. So he's known for these great early successes, and then, catastrophic failures. And that was one of the reasons the Yugo came over; it was the next Brooklyn venture.

Ryssdal: What was it, as that car got here, I mean, people went bananas for this thing.

Vuic: Absolutely. It opened in about 50 dealers and about 1,050 cars were sold in a single day. There were lines at some dealerships 10 deep. People were buying cars sight unseen. And they called it "Yugo mania," believe it or not.

Ryssdal: And the sticker price was...[read on; listen to the interview]
Visit The Yugo Facebook page.

--Marshal Zeringue