Volkswagen of America lied about rebranding to “Voltswagen” in an effort to draw attention to the lone electric vehicle it’s currently selling in the United States, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal have reported. It was a marketing stunt done ahead of April Fools’ Day.
This all started when Volkswagen of America “accidentally” published a draft version of a press release announcing the change on Monday, which was first reported by CNBC. The company had declined to comment on the report, and spokesperson Mark Gillies repeatedly declined to say whether the name change was a marketing stunt.
The automaker, which pleaded guilty to deceiving regulators about the true pollution levels of hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles, then published a press release on Tuesday morning saying the change was a “public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.” The company said the “Voltswagen” branding would be on all of its EVs going forward.
Volkswagen of America is now expected to reveal on Wednesday that the name change was a stunt, according to Reuters. The larger Volkswagen Group declined to comment.
“We have said, from the beginning of our shift to an electric future, that we will build EVs for the millions, not just millionaires,” CEO of Volkswagen of America Scott Keogh proudly boasted in the press release, which, at publication time, remained on the company’s website. “This name change signifies a nod to our past as the peoples’ car and our firm belief that our future is in being the peoples’ electric car.”
Volkswagen’s various social media accounts also promoted the lie on Tuesday. The @VW account tweeted an image of the fake “Voltswagen” logo and wrote “66 is an unusual age to change your name.” That’s a nod to the age of the American subsidiary — not the larger Volkswagen Group, which was founded in the 1930s before it became part of the Nazi war machine.
Volkswagen of America so straightforwardly represented the name change as real that it was reported by The Associated Press, the BBC, and dozens of other outlets, including The Verge. Even Wall Street firm Wedbush published a note about the change.
Volkswagen is at the beginning of an $86 billion push into electric vehicles because it wants to be known as the leader in the space — a strategic shift that, again, was inspired by the fact that the company was caught installing software on its vehicles that was meant to fool regulators into allowing dirty cars on the road. It did not seem completely out of the question that the company would be willing to make such a ridiculous choice; after all, Volkswagen Group CEO Herbert Diess has spent the last few months emulating Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who makes erratic decisions like most people drink water.
But now we know the rebrand was nothing more than another lie from a company that’s become known for something else: lying.
Update March 30th, 5PM ET: This post was originally written about Volkswagen’s announcement that it was rebranding in the US to “Voltswagen.” The company has since confirmed that this was a lie in service of a marketing stunt. The post and headline have been updated to reflect this.