UPDATE: VW 'Voltswagen' rebranding was a marketing stunt

Byron Hurd
·3 min read

Volkswagen AG's U.S. unit will not change its name even after the German automaker issued a statement on Tuesday saying it would, three sources briefed on the matter told Reuters. The Wall Street Journal is reporting the same thing.

The German automaker's news release saying it would change its name to "Voltswagen of America" was a marketing stunt aimed at drawing attention to the company's electric vehicle plans, the three sources said. The fake announcement drew massive media coverage from outlets including Reuters, The Associated Press, Yahoo Finance, WSJ, CNBC and the automotive press.

Autoblog was one of the last outlets to report the announcement that starting in May, VW's U.S. operation would be known as "Voltswagen of America" — and when we did report it, we did so warily. As the story goes, a press release on the change was "accidentally" leaked on March 29 then taken down. When we reached out to VW for confirmation, the official answer was no comment, but we were told that the press release had been intended to go out on March 29 — in other words, three days before April 1, the implication being that this was expressly not a joke. This was in fact a misdirect.

Then VW doubled down by putting out a press release on Tuesday confirming the reports from the day before. Automakers often do April Fool's jokes, but they're always done with a wink and are owned up to at the end. There's also done on April Fool's Day. Not this time. Tuesday's release even contained an earnest-sounding quote from VW of America boss Scott Keogh.

"Volkswagen of America will not be changing its name to Voltswagen. The renaming was designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fool's Day, highlighting the launch of the all-electric ID.4 SUV and signaling our commitment to bringing electric mobility to all," a VW U.S. spokesman said in a statement.

"We will provide additional updates on this matter soon," he added.

The automaker currently plans to announce on Wednesday it is not serious about changing its name, Reuters' sources said.

Volkswagen came under criticism on social media Tuesday for its misleading news release, with some commentators recalling the company's diesel emissions scandal and years of misleading customers and regulators.

"Apparently no one in the approval process at @VW said, hey maybe we shouldn't lie to the press given the whole, you know, emissions lying thing," Dawn Kopecki, senior editor for CNBC.com, said on Twitter.

Volkswagen in 2015 admitted to using illegal software to rig diesel engine tests in the United States, sparking Germany's biggest corporate crisis and costing the carmaker more than 32 billion euros in fines, refits and legal costs.

Some VW officials have expressed frustration that its significant U.S. EV efforts have not drawn as much attention as Tesla or General Motors.

The Volkswagen brand aims to invest 16 billion euros ($19 billion) in electrification and digitalization by 2025. It has committed to sell one million EVs worldwide by 2025.

Includes information from Reuters.

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