Remember Malcolm Bricklin, the maverick American businessman who blew up millions of dollars in his SV-1 sportscar? Although the idea was grand, and noble in that it envisaged a safe and eco-friendly sportscar, the SV-1 was a spectacular failure. The reasons were many; the 5.0-litre V8, mated to a three-speed automatic, was underpowered, build quality was terrible, and electric failure caused many owners to be locked inside the car. However, despite his new company going into receivership within a year of setting up, Bricklin was not ready to give up on his automotive ambitions.
Just over a decade after his sportscar aspirations went bust, Malcolm Bricklin came back with a new car. This time, it wasn’t an extravagant supercar, but a cheap little runabout based on the Fiat 127 and built in Yugoslavia. The car, known as the Zastava Koral in Yugoslavia, was marketed in the US by Bricklin as Yugo. Its bargain-basement price of $3,990 attracted buyers despite apparent quality issues. Sales shot up to 5,000 units a month in just over a year’s time. Buoyed by this initial spike in demand, the company increased imports significantly and expanded the dealer network. However, this optimism proved deceptive, as the outdated design and woeful quality control dampened demand soon leading to sales falling sharply and unsold Yugos started to pile up at dealerships.
Seeing the decline in sales, Bricklin sold his interest in Yugo within a couple of years, and UN sanctions on Yugoslavia and subsequent NATO bombing of its production facilities sealed Zastava’s fate, and that of Yugo’s.