As the VW emissions scandal draws a (potentially brief) breath following the resignation of CEO Martin Winterkorn yesterday, there is a sense that the firm's cheating of the system could plunge the entire car industry into crisis.

VW's cheat has put the focus on emissions testing as a whole, and the undeniable truth that laboratory tests do not reflect real-world use in any realistic fashion. We knew that, of course, and our sister brand What Car? created True MPG for that reason, but it seems only now the wider world has woken up to it.

Changes to narrow the gap have been planned for some time, negotiated between regulators and car makers. Now, with governmental focus pushed on the issue by VW's fix, these changes may come sooner and with fewer concessions.

But regulators must resist knee-jerk reactions, not least because it is the regulations - as opposed to the car makers - that have been found wanting. Every major industry is regulated, and from pharmaceuticals to construction to car making the money makers work to the standards they are set.

Measuring emissions is complex, not least because so much depends on the driver. What feels painfully obvious today but perhaps wasn't last week is that the obsessive focus on CO2 in Europe at least has taken the collective eye off the ball on NOX.

Even so, regulators can't just demand car makers replicate lab results in the real world. If technology exists to achieve this, it only does so at vast expense. A Ford Fiesta could end up costing the same price as a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and in that scenario neither the car makers not the public win.

The danger is that ill-thought-through legislation is rushed in. The car industry is among the world's most vibrant, forward thinking and technically and financially able.

To some, plunging it into chaos through industry-wide root and branch reform may feel like just reward for VW's gross actions - but the economic, social and environmental implications would be better served by reflection and collaboration.

Read more on the Volkswagen emissions scandal:

How the Volkswagen story unfolded

How VW's 'defeat device' works

VW board anticipates more top-line casualties

European cars are affected, says German minister

PSA Peugeot Citroën leads calls for tougher emissions test procedures

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