It seems only industry nerds were mad about it.
Volkswagen tried its hand at an April Fools' joke this year, and we're sure you've already heard about how it went. In case you didn't, the company announced that it planned to change its name to Voltswagen in the United States to highlight its electric future. Remember, this is the same company still dressing its scars from the Dieselgate scandal. Many reporters were angered, but the joke did exactly what it was supposed to.
"When you light a match like this, in the environment, and it gets us, you know, as much traction as it did, you're just not able to control everything - every phone call, every text, every email, every engagement, every back and forth," Scott Keogh, VW Group of America CEO said. "But the idea came from a very Volkswagen place: Let's have some fun. Let's have a gag. Let's show the world how crazy we are about EVs. Full stop."
We called up a few local dealerships to see what their take was, and to find out if the prank affected business. They basically all said some form of the same thing. "We heard about it a little, from some of our floor managers and from some our customers. No one was angry about it, most thought it was funny."
One said that she had an ID.4 EV on the sales floor and a few people, correctly, conflated the two. "So it basically worked," she said.
The plan was developed weeks ago and included a fake, early press release dated for April 29 that went live on March 29. That clouded the joke, as reporters weren't sure if it was supposed to be dated April 1, or if it really was launched a month early. A few high-profile journalists were emailed from an anonymous account to amplify the message.
After getting "confirmation" from a source, we, and most other outlets ran with it. It's not out of the question that a manufacturer changes its name or adds one for a special group of vehicles. So, Volkswagen could have done this for its ID.4 and the rest of its coming electric fleet. Our colleagues were visibly angry, but to us, it just seems like an ill-conceived and poorly-timed joke.
VW eventually tweeted that the stunt "got the whole world buzzing," and that "people talking about electric driving and our ID.4 can only be a good thing."
Look, these are giant corporations. They don't have the same comedic timing as a Jerry Seinfeld or a Chris Rock. Just imagine a super socially awkward kid at your high school trying to do a 5-minute standup routine, that's what you're going to get.