"Volkswagen AG's designated Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch warned managers that the diesel-emissions scandal could pose 'an existence-threatening crisis for the company,' as it pleaded for public trust with full-page ads in national newspapers." Patrick Donahue, Bloomberg, October 4, 2015. Here is the article.
The magic of public relations doesn't always work. Sure, there have been miraculous brand comebacks. Gawker is one. It is still standing, despite ugly publicity from Hulk Hogan lawsuit and outing a media executive hunting for some gay action. The Henry Blodget brand is another.
But Newsweek has never returned to its former influence. Old-line food company Kraft (even joined with Heinz) is struggling. And what will happen to the brands of the defendants involved in lead paint litigation "People of California v. ARCO" if they lose their appeal?
For decades, the VW bug had been a symbol of everything that was right in German values and engineering. It was the European version of Coca-Cola. Don Draper didn't need to create high-powered advertising to win our minds and hearts. A neighbor, handy with tools, still is bopping around Tucson, Arizona, in the bug. It's even proving to be a babe-magnet. He pulls up next to us as we are walking our dogs and flirts.
If VW does survive, it will have to go on life support. That might constitute merging with a brand which still is trusted. Eventually, we might forget. But my hunch is that it will require a radical strategy like that to continue to exist.