I honestly thought that I’d heard the last Yugo joke in about 1992, but I hadn’t figured on the cutting-edge humour of the BBC.
The decision by Zastava to stop making the Koral hatchback, previously sold in export markets including Britain under the Yugo brand, gave the BBC’s Helen Fawkes a chance to dust-off all the old gems on the Today show this morning.
“How do you double the value of a Yugo?, fill the tank with petrol.”
“Why does a Yugo have a heater rear windscreen? To keep your hands warm when you’re pushing it.” Laugh? I almost did.
But apart from the sub-Tarbuck comedy routine, the whole report seemed to be an attempt to hang some unfortunate stereotypes around a couple of ill-fitting facts. And several major errors: despite Fawkes’ claim that this was “the last Yugo”, no car has been sold wearing a Yugo badge for 15 years (they’re Zastavas.)
But the thing that really irritated was the way the Zastava factory in Kragujevac was portayed as being so desperately backward. I went there earlier this year, and even then only a small part of the site was given over to making the ancient Koral, Skala and Florida models. Yes, the place was thorougly dilapidated and in need of a lick of paint, but it also featured a modern production line welding together the previous-generation Fiat Punto, which is now badged as the Zastava 10.
Indeed, Zastava still has engineering staff, an active R&D facility, a brand new calibration rig and modern CADCAM design systems. Listening to the BBC, you’d think they had to usher the chickens out before they started work in the morning.
Give it five years and I reckon that Fiat-owned Kragujevac might well be one of the busiest car factories in the world – and that really would give Zastava’s workforce the last laugh.