The Boxy, Much-Maligned Yugo

A reader in Boston asks: Whatever Happened to The Boxy, Much Maligned Yugo.

Guy walks into a car-parts store and says, "I'll take a wheel for a Yugo." "Sounds like a fair trade," the retailer replies.

Soon after its introduction to the United States in 1985, the Yugo developed a reputation for shoddy construction. "People poke fun of the Yugo, but for the $3,999 sticker price, it was an OK car," says Hadrian Zwager, owner of Orion Automotive in Houston, the lone authorized Yugo parts dealer in the US. Between 1986 and 1991, 335,000 of the Yugoslav-made four-cylinder hatchbacks were sold here. But only about 25,000 are still registered in America today.

Sluggish sales and mismanagement led Yugo America to file for bankruptcy in 1991. Some dealerships, eager to unload the cars, offered deals like "Buy a Buick, get a free Yugo."

The Yugo factory in Kragujevac, Yugoslavia - hard-hit by war and United Nations economic sanctions - still cranks out 12,000 cars annually. Most are sold in Yugoslavia. Some are shipped to Australia, New Zealand, and North Africa. None come to the US.

If you wonder 'Whatever happened to...' write us at: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 or e-mail: whatever@csmonitor.com

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