The past two months haven't been easy for Volkswagen, to say the least.

The carmaker continues to feel the fallout from an ongoing emissions-cheating scandal, with no plan yet revealed to fix the 482,000 diesel cars confirmed to have "defeat device" software.

In the meantime, customers and dealers remain frustrated as Volkswagen cars lose value, and the public's trust in the company evaporates.

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Recalling cars, paying fines, and punishing the guilty parties will be quite an effort, but once all that is done, VW will still have to rebuild its reputation.

Exactly how that can be accomplished was the subject of a segment on a recent episode of NPR's This American Life.

The show's staff talked to various ad agencies about how VW could market its way out of the emissions scandal, and even got three pitches in response.

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI

2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI

One was to create a Frontline-esque documentary showing a third party investigating Volkswagen.

Obviously more substantial than a simple commercial, this undertaking would have the feel of an independent investigation--and presumably its cathartic impact--but not be neutral in reality.

It would be along the lines of the "sponsored content" or "advertorial" material published by many media outlets (including this one).

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Another proposal involved crowdsourcing a way for Volkswagen to repent.

The company could set up a website and let people vote on how it should atone, with options like paying to have trees planted as a carbon sink, or funding research for things like renewable energy.

Option three was a little more ambitious.

2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI

The idea is to move VW headquarters to Detroit, cleaning up the company's bad reputation (in the U.S., at least), with a wash of patriotism.

And to announce Volkswagen's arrival in the home of the Big Three U.S. automakers, the plan called for whipping up a flashy commercial--featuring the cast of the Broadway musical Hamilton marching down Detroit's streets.

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Regardless of how it does it, though, there was a feeling that Volkswagen will have to move fast to repair its reputation.

The longer it goes without producing its own positive publicity, the longer negative publicity will continue to define it, the thinking goes.

But before any real thought can go into image-repair marketing, Volkswagen will have to fix the affected diesel cars--and deal with any legal consequences of its actions.


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