Volkswagen would do well to remember the 1982 Tylenol tragedy and how drugmaker Johnson & Johnson came out the other side.
Seven people died that year after taking capsules of Extra-Strength Tylenol, which had been laced with cyanide. The forthright way in which the company dealt with the public during the crisis assured the product would continue to be viable.
Before the deaths, Tylenol accounted for 37 percent of the analgesic market but fell to 7 percent after the poisonings. Because of the way the company handled things, though, it had climbed back to 30 percent a year later.
Obviously, there are differences. Johnson & Johnson had nothing to do with introducing cyanide to the pain reliever bottles, while Volkswagen intentionally used computer software to fool testing systems that diesel engines were cleaner than they actually were.