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Trivia: Will The Fiat 500L Be First Serbian-Built Car Sold In The U.S.?

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The 2012 Fiat 500 has been on sale in the U.S. for almost a year, as a three-door hatchback, a 500C cabrio with a roll-back cloth roof, and the just-launched 500 Abarth performance model.

A new, larger 2013 Fiat 500L all-wheel drive crossover will be unveiled in Geneva next month to expand the range. European sales begin later this year, and U.S. sales kick off early next year.

Today's Fiat 500 models are all built in Mexico for the North American market, but the larger 500L crossover will be built in Serbia and exported to the States.

So will it be the first Serbian-built car ever sold in the U.S.?

That depends.

Remember the Yugo?

It was the tiny hatchback imported to the U.S. between 1985 and 1991. Adapted from a licensed Fiat design of the 1970s, it quickly became joke fodder and is now often found on lists of the worst cars ever.

The Yugo was built in the same plant in Kragujevac that will build the Fiat 500L. That plant was bombed by NATO in 1999 during the Serbian conflict.

Yugo Power Tour

Yugo Power Tour

Enlarge Photo

The remains of the company that built it, Zastava Automobili, collapsed in bankruptcy and were purchased in April 2008 by Fiat.

The now-rebuilt Kragujevac assembly plant is a far cheaper place to build small cars than any of Fiat's plants in Italy, all of which operate at a loss.

Fiat will export the 500L and other cars through a port in the adjacent country of Montenegro.

But, here's the kicker.

When the Yugo was built in Kragujevac, that city was part of a country called Yugoslavia that broke into six countries--Bosnia and Herezgovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia--in the aftermath of the Balkan conflicts of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

So, in fact, the 2013 Fiat 500L will be the first Serbian-built car to be sold in the United States, because Serbia didn't exist when the Yugo was sold here.

Here endeth today's automotive history lesson.

 
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Comments (7)
  1. Is this Part 11 of the Yugo :-)
     
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  2. No, it's the reorganized Fiatification of North America in action. Watch out. Oh, this car company named Chrysler is also involved.
     
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  3. Today's history lesson re the first car imported from Serbia was a little incomplete. Historically, Serbia existed before there was a Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was cobbled together following World War I and consisted of the 5 republics mentioned. The republics never really lost their identities, remaining states of Yugoslavia, retaining their capitals, etc. All of which eventually led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia. So a case can be made that the Fiat 500L, in fact, is not the first import from Serbia.
     
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  4. The 500L is a nice looking little station wagon or whatever they want to call it. I am certain it will be well made and reliable unlike what you trying to imply in your commentary. Why is it you criticize cars that aren't available for sale this date and/or comparing them to something the Russians built a thousand years ago?
     
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  5. @James - So many wrong things with your comment I don't even know where to start... The "Russians"? WTF? Do you call the Iraqis or the Afghanistanis or the Japanese and the Germans, "Americans" too? You're certain it's going to be reliable and well-made? We already know how Fiat 500 is made. It's really nice in the European market but only so so in the US. The quality is not the greatest. And with so many better and larger options in this price range, unless Fiat brings something cool from Alfa, they won't last any longer than Yugo did. Not much nostalgia here they can build on either.
     
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  6. Actually, there was another country that resulted from the breakup of Yugoslavia - Kosovo. The Nato air campaign in 1999 was to prevent the Serbian police and army from doing to the people of Kosovo what they had done a few years earlier in Srebrenica. Kosovo - a former province of Serbia - declared its independence in 2008, with the blessing of the U.S. and most of Europe, but most definitely not of Serbia. As a result, most Serbians detest the U.S. and cheer on Russia and China (not to mention Qaddhafi and al-Assad) in their efforts to establish a new world order that will end up humiliating the U.S. and see the return of Kosovo to Serbia. And now they want to sell cars in the U.S. Interesting.
     
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  7. Yugo was built in Serbia and exported to USA, decades ago,
    here is a commercial:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HoYC7vT8qo&noredirect=1
     
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