Vuic, Jason. The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History. Hill and Wang, 2010. ISBN 978-0809098910 272 pp. $
What’s the difference between a Yugo and a golf ball?
You can drive a golf ball more than 200 yards.
In addition to being a biography of the little car that couldn’t, The Yugo is also a book in how not to run a business, and a buyer beware message for consumers. The excellent introduction hooks the reader in by talking about ways the Yugo is an icon for it’s badness, and comparing it to several other “worst” cars. I didn’t feel the other chapters I read had the same sensational storytelling – maybe there were too many names, facts and figures?
I struggled, three times to get to the 50 page mark, and I’m not sure what the block for me is. It got rave reviews on Amazon and high praise on the back cover blurbs. I love nonfiction. I hate to think I’m not a car girl – I’m married to a mechanic and car parts store manager who can tell make and model by a glimpse of the headlights on almost any vehicle.
Maybe then, it’s the business elements, or the historical elements. Vuic profiles several people responsible for getting the Yugo to American soil, beginning with immigrant Miroslav Kefurt in 1984, at the end of the cold War era. The narrative has a lot of background to put the Yugo and Kefurt’s business decision into context, including world history, world politics, the Olympics, import regulations, car production in Japan, and other “cheap” car successes and failures. ALL of that is crammed into chapter one.
Next, we are introduced to investor/entrepeneur Malcolm Bricklin, and his string of business ventures. Two and a half chapters later, he’s wined and dined Kefurt, buying the California distribution rights for Yugo for $50,000.
That’s as far as I can get. This title is boring me to tears! I appreciate Vuic’s research. The notes are impressive, he interviewed primary sources and got great quotes, and the index is excellent. He’s a decent writer and uses journalistic techniques to bring a human interest tone to the narrative, and fleshes out these businessmen who made terrible decisions. The cover is clever, and the format, with each chapter headed by a new joke about the Yugo, makes it fun. That said, the content, in spite of several attempts, isn’t engaging me or holding my attention.