The Worst Car of All Time Is Still Sputtering Around America

Cars are some of the greatest inventions in history. While the invention has undergone several transformations throughout history in various ways, some brands have staggered behind with their models, thus earning a spot on the list for worst cars of all time. Still, none come close to one brand that has been declared awful by many drivers but still has a few loyal fans who can’t seem to let it go: the Yugo.

Yugo is the worst car of all time

A white Yugo hatchback in a factory environment stripped of various parts.
Yugo hatchback | Getty Images

Yugo began in 1984 as a means of combating bankruptcy. The man behind the vehicle, Malcolm Bricklin, had failed miserably at producing automobiles with his inventions Bertone X1/9S and Pininfarina Spider not breaking even in the market. He then began looking for a comeback car to sell quickly and set out to find his diamond in the rough across Europe.

A trip with his friend and partner, Tony Ciminera, to communist Yugoslavia gave him the idea for what is today known widely as the worst vehicle of all time. Having set his eyes on the boxy hatchback, he saw the potential for a fast-selling vehicle. He looked beyond the dismal factory conditions where the car was being produced.

The factory had workers who smoked inside the model and climbed around with dirty shoes. Many would have immediately noticed red flags, including the factory creating machine guns. But, Bricklin saw a money-making venture. He realized the wholesale costs for each vehicle would total $2000. If he sold the Yugo in the US for $3995, he would quickly recoup his investment. Thus the Yugo became available in America in August 1985.

Although the plain-looking vehicle sold fast, the poor quality production soon caught up. It was slow and performed dismally in crash tests, which eventually earned the Yugo the title of the dud car of the late 20th century. The vehicle was so bad that even one Toyota dealership tried to offer it as an incentive for anyone who bought a Toyota. Even then, no one wanted the Yugo.

The Yugo eventually met its death in 1992, with the company once again falling into bankruptcy. Its end was also inevitable because the United Nations trade embargos and the Yugoslav civil war made its parts hard to come by in the United States.

The boxy hatchback is still on roads today

Sometimes all it takes for people to love something is to give it the “terrible” label. Although most people would rather not have to deal with the failures of the Yugo, others hail its failures as legendary. In fact, some experts feel differently about its title as the worst car of all time.

Sure the Yugo was slow, but it was never marketed as a fast car, to begin with. Additionally, it was super affordable when it came out. Other vehicles retailed for around $9000. The Yugo went for $4000. Although it had a couple of quality issues, so did other huge brand name vehicles like the 1985 Chevrolet Chevette.

To date, people still talk about the Yugo, and it seems others have not been able to let go of the boxy hatchback as it is still sputtering around America. According to a 2021 report by Auto News, there are 408 Yugos in operation today, which is a pretty impressive number for a car that almost went extinct decades ago.

General Motors leads with the most cars on the road

A deeper dive into the report shows that General Motors takes the lead with a total of 61,274,433 vehicles in operation, with 45 million of said vehicles being more than five years old and 16 million less than five years old.

Ford comes in second with 46 million vehicles in operation. Toyota cuts close with 41 million cars in operation, followed closely by Honda with 26 million vehicles.

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