Tim Morgan, a 51-year-old accountant in Houston, has an alter ego. He's a passionate fan of an unlikely object of love: the Chevrolet Vega.
The Vega was General Motors' main small-car offering for much of the 1970s. Like many other GM small cars of the past half century, Vegas were star-crossed products.
"They had some design flaws," admits Morgan, former president of a national Vega club with about 400 members.
The Vega is on a long list of small GM cars since 1960 with mediocre — or worse — reputations. The list features the Chevrolet Corvair, Chevette and Cavalier. It also includes a long series of rebadged offshoots, such as the Pontiac T1000, Buick Skyhawk and Cadillac Cimarron.
Some simply flopped. Some were big sellers, at least for a while. But taken together, the offerings left a powerful impression that small cars are not GM's strength.
That rap has steered millions of potential customers away from GM. Today, the company's reputation for mediocre small cars has prevented GM from fully capitalizing on sky-high gasoline prices.
And worse: The struggle appears likely to continue.