November 20, 2008 / 5:00 PM / 10 years ago

Serbia bids farewell to Yugo car

KRAGUJEVAC, Serbia, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Serbian auto maker Zastava, producer of the iconic Yugo, will make its last vehicle on Friday before closing its doors to revamp operations in a joint venture with Italy’s Fiat FIA.MI.

The Yugo car dates back to 1978, and, since mass production started in 1980, nearly 800,000 Yugo vehicles have rolled out of the Zastava plant, 142,000 exported to the United States.

Socialist Yugoslavia created the Zastava car plant in 1953 to service its domestic market of about 20 million people.

Zastava’s downfall began in 1991, as the civil war erupted in what was formerly Yugoslavia. Zastava currently employs about 4,000 workers and produced nearly 11,000 vehicles in 2007, far below its peak production of 220,000 vehicles in 1989.

The new Fiat factory scheduled for the Zastava site plans to produce 200,000 cars a year there by 2010.

Zastava plans to sell its assembly lines and management has said companies from Russia and some African countries are interested in buying the technology. (Editing by Adam Tanner and Andrew Macdonald)

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