VW - and Germany - will have to work hard to rebuild image after scandal.
I'M all into European languages this morning. I can't help it really because this Volkswagen saga is that big.
Volkswagen is far more than a German car company. It is an institution. It was the cornerstone of the postwar economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder.
The Wolfsburg factory and company HQ were pretty well on the old East German border.
East Germans were meant to look across the border and bemoan their fate in the infinitely less successful state-controlled economy.
Paradoxically, of course, Volkswagen was also state-controlled but in the setting of a mixed economy.
Indeed there may still be a smidgen of state ownership of VW shares even now.
The millions of VW Beetles exported to the US where you couldn't give away its British rival models like the Morris Minor or the Ford Anglia bore witness to how rock-solid the German brand was.
German engineering was better, higher quality, more reliable. That is until now.
This is their "Perrier moment". Mort Sahl, the American satirist, used to do a riff about the American attitude to the Beetle.
Three of four guys would be standing around a Beetle. One of them has just bought a new one.
They would try to shut the two doors simultaneously. (Allegedly it was impossible, because the doors were sort of airtight and the door columns so rigid.) Inevitably, the next comment would be: "Man, It's built like tank - so strong!" Next comment: "Well how did they manage to lose the war, then?" Punchline: "Ah, but did they lose it?" Now all that German reputation for superior engineering, quality and reliability is being dragged in the dirt.
It will affect how we all look at German-made products, not just cars.
They will have to work extra hard to restore not just VW's good name, but the whole German brand.
That is exactly what the Germans did do in the 1950s.
To export anything German just after the war can't have been easy.
The VW was Hitler's personal idea, after all. The VW had to be superreliable to sell overseas. It will have to rebuild that brand image all over again. It is an opportunity at least for now for UK companies to nip in and take a chunk of German market share in China etc. but don't bet the farm against the Germans being able to pull off another Wirtschaftswunder!
A Greenpeace poster showing the cartoon character Pinocchio is displayed in front of a factory gate of Volkswagen in Wolfsburg, Germany, yesterday <B