Ultimately, the fortune and trust that Volkswagen will lose as a result of this debacle will be a trifle—a company that size can recover, if it hires the right consultants plays its cards judiciously. What's truly tragic is the knock that innovation in general could take as a result. The re-introduction of diesel fuel was being only slowly and reluctantly embraced by the U.S. population overall, despite the enthusiasm of many consumers, and despite the legitimate innovation of other brands, including Mercedes and BMW. (The fuel has always been a common alternative to gasoline in Europe, where emissions standards are lower.) The Volkswagen scandal could set back diesel adoption a decade, and could for decades to come be a punchline any time any company promises win-win solutions to big problems—in VW's example, offering better fuel economy and fun, powerful cars, absent the inconvenient hassle of a urea canister needing to be topped off during the oil changes you need to make anyway.