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Yugo Emphasizes Reliability, Invokes Memory of VW Beetle

December 7, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ The folks bringing you the Yugo, an inexpensive car imported from Yugoslavia, plan to prod memories of the sturdy Volkswagen ″beetle.″

Although the cars aren’t similar in their works or their looks, a TV ad campaign will suggest the Yugo is the beetle’s philosophical successor: reliable transportation at an affordable price.

The two-door, four-passenger cars, which resemble another old Volkswagen model, the Rabbit, went on sale in late August and are priced about $1,000 below comparable cars.

Yugo television commercials will begin airing early in 1986, but the importers are already busy preparing for the car’s debut, assembling a network of 150 dealers across the country, setting up special training sessions for salesmen and mechanics and importing 180 tons of spare parts and tools.

Analysts say the quality of construction and the availability of service and parts will be key factors in determining the Yugo’s long-term success.

″You don’t expect Mercedes quality, but you don’t want trim pieces or a door handle that will fall off,″ said Joseph Phillippi, who follows the automotive industry for E.F. Hutton in New York.

Yugo America is responsible for importing and distributing Yugos and is independent of the Yugoslavian company that makes the cars, Zavodi Crvena Zastava.

The cars were first available in the Northeast, but are gradually being shipped to dealers in the South and Midwest and will become available on the West Coast in the spring, said Ron Edelson, vice president for marketing services at Yugo America Inc. of Montvale, N.J.

Dealers say demand has been strong from all age groups.

Kevin MacCready, sales manager at Bay Ridge Volvo’s Exclusive Motors Inc. in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he sold nine Yugos on the first day of sales in August, and has sold 70 more since then. ″I’m delivering cars now that people had ordered in mid-September,″ he said.

Jeanette Crisconi, owner of Crisconi Oldsmobile-Yugo in Philadelphia, said she had a backlog of 200 orders by the time her first Yugos arrived in early September. She held a drawing to see who got the first nine cars and is currently delivering to people who placed orders in August.

William E. Prior, president of Yugo America, said the car should appeal to people buying their first car, families looking for a second or third car and people who might otherwise buy a used import.

Yugo America has produced three television commercials, which are being shown to its dealers before they appear in markets where the cars will be available early next year.

In one commercial, a Model T Ford drives across the screen until bumped from behind by a VW Beetle, which was phased out in the United States in the mid-1970s.

″Every generation or so, some smart guys come along who’ve figured how to make basic transportation at an affordable price,″ says the voice of actor Judd Hirsch.

As the Model T passes out of the picture, the Beetle is nudged from behind by the Yugo. ″Well, introducing the same old idea. The Yugo. Imported from Europe for only $3,990,″ Hirsch says.

With only the Yugo left on the screen, the narration concludes: ″Basic transportation, affordable price. The Yugo. At $3,990, it’s the road back to sanity.″

In a second commercial, a Beetle is driven out of a garage, leaving an empty space for a few seconds. Then a Yugo backs in to take its place.

The third commercial opens with a slow survey of an array of auto parts and then several Yugos. ″Yugo dealers don’t have thousands of Yugos yet,″ the narrator says, ″but they do have thousands of Yugo parts.″

Prior said it would have been foolish to base a marketing plan on price alone. That would invite price competition, he said, and possibly make consumers think the car is ″cheap.″

Prior says the car is well-made. The Yugo can be sold at such a low price because of low labor costs, the manufacturer’s self-made components and a distribution network that eliminates some middlemen, he said.

The Yugo comes with front-wheel drive and a rear window wiper, washer and defroster as standard equipment, but without a radio. Automatic transmission will not be available until 1987.

The Yugo’s construction in a Communist country may disturb some car buyers. The ads say the car is ″imported from Europe″ rather than specifying a country. Yet the name of the car serves as a reminder of where it was built.

Prior said the name was selected because it connoted activity. The typeface in the official Yugo logo was designed to call attention to the last two letters of the name.

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