But not a very funny one.
We never expected our ID.4 test drive review entitled "Der Volts-Wagen" published on March 3 would be taken so literally by the German carmaker. And, like us, if you've been skeptical about the idea of a company with an 84-year history, and the brand recognition that has earned, changing its name to a pun, well, it seems you were right to be suspicious. The declaration on Volkswagen's US media site that it was changing its name to Voltswagen in America has turned out to be a mix of April Fools joke and marketing stunt.
As a marketing stunt, it's had incredible reach and the story has been picked up by major news outlets worldwide. As a PR move, it has become a disaster and has turned some popular press outlets against the company.
Volkswagen started the campaign on March 29, 2021, announcing plans to rename its US operations to "Voltswagen of America." A press release quoted Volkswagen's US boss Scott Keogh saying: "We might be changing out our K for a T, but what we aren't changing is this brand's commitment to making best-in-class vehicles for drivers and people everywhere. 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."
However, on March 30 and in a statement to Reuters, a US Volkswagen spokesperson said, "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."
We can tip our hat to Volkswagen for coming up with a piece of false news walking the line of being absurd yet just about believable enough it was hard to discount out of hand. However, not owning up quickly to it being a badly executed stunt for April Fools day is turning out to be a huge mistake.
Instead, Volkswagen's PR doubled down and told the press it was true, leading to it being widely reported as fact. Initially, we were skeptical but were finally taken in by the official press release. However, some publications have taken the news it's not true badly and, when reporting that it was a stunt, are bringing up the Dieselgate scandal and pointing out the trick was designed to bring attention to Volkswagen's lone electric vehicle in the US, the ID.4.
As it stands, Volkswagen has removed its press release announcing the name change from its media site, and we're expecting some sort of official explanation or statement today on the subject.