Skip to main content

Review: The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History

"I'm reading about Yugos," I told a friend this weekend.

"Yugos! I loved them! They must have made a ton of money," he said.

Hardly, as is shown in Jason Vuic's The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History, which will be published in March 2010. It's about how the Yugo rode into the U.S. on the power of a strong viral campaign and rock bottom price tag, and crashed because the cars were less than reliable, being produced by a company always on the edge of insolvency.

In telling the story of the Yugo, Vuic also writes about small cars in America, and how they form the bottom of the car food chain -- an important bottom (says this Honda Civic driver).

It's an interesting story, but not as told here. Vuic is a history professor and Yugoslav expert, but adeptness in teaching history hasn't translated into the strong narrative that this book would need to make it more interesting non-fiction read and less wikipedia entry about the little car that couldn't. He tells the story but doesn't show it. Even the lively bits, like Yugo girls prancing around the car when it was introduced to dealers, fall flat.

Unless I missed it in the notes, Vuic didn't interview the star of the story, Malcolm Bricklin, an apparent egomaniac who cooked up Yugo America and has a sting of failed companies and bankruptcies in his wake (and is still trying to push cars). He's doing media interviews and even had a documentary made about himself.

I can understand why Bricklin might not want to be attached to a book about Yugos, but even if he said no, that should have been made clear. His refusal to be interview would say a lot about his character and thoughts about the car post mortem.

Did I learn about Yugos and the car industry? Yes. But the book read more like a history text than the non-fiction narrative story I think the Yugo deserves.

To check out some Yugos re-purposed in interesting ways, click here -- it's a show referenced in the book, and hysterical.

Comments

Unknown said…
Just a note: Malcolm Bricklin was NEVER asked to do an interview for this book. I can assure you, he is happy to discuss Yugo at any time with anyone. He does not consider Yugo a failure. Thanks for qualifying the "egomaniac" comment with "apparent." He's got a healthy ego, but is definitely not a maniac. He is not still selling cars. I think you might really enjoy speaking with Malcolm, and I would love to extent the invitation.
Jen A. Miller said…
PK -whoever you are, I would be very interested to interview Malcolm. Drop me a line at jenmiller27 [at] gmail [dot] com. Thanks for the comment.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R