There is a saying about brands…that you can take decades to establish a brand and build a strong personality around it…carefully developing a sought after brand that people aspire to… and yet it can be killed off in days.

Hero to zero. It seems unfair.

If a company has been making outstanding products for 50 years but “had a bad day” this year can’t they be forgiven? Surely the desire to produce excellence is in their DNA? Can’t they be awarded the grace of a second chance? Allow them to rapidly mend their ways and restore the faith of their customers? No?

The current VW scandal may become a history lesson in how to destroy a brand overnight.

Since the end of WW2 the world has had a love affair with Beetles and Golfs and Kombis.

In my car club we have 2 old school Beetle owners. Another friend is a Kombi nut. I have a client who raves about them. He bought a Tiguan and Polo then upgraded this year to a Tourag and Golf GTi. I should ask if the past week’s events have changed his perceptions of VW.

From what I have learned to date… VW’s diesel engines were rated with better fuel consumption figures than reality. The company has confessed that 11,000,000 vehicles worldwide have a software package which was used to cheat the EPA. I assume there will be a massive vehicle recall.

VW was named one of the top global brands of 2014. They also received the National Energy Globe Award Germany. They recently listed their intangible assets – which includes customer goodwill – at $67B. Be interesting to see what that number looks like in a year’s time.

Of course, VW can rescue the situation if they handle it well. With transparency, humility. But the comments I am hearing from motoring (and other) media sources and VW customers are quite damning. It’s interesting that a ‘lifetime’ of solid engineering and design can be disregarded over one mistake.

Of course that mistake included being dishonest. Not just to the EPA but also every customer. Those owners are experiencing a breach of trust after having invested a lot of money in the brand.

I will watch the news and car sales figures with interest. Is the Peoples’ Car about to run off the road? Can the brand survive this?