Editor’s Note: On Tuesday March 30th, the day after this article was originally published, Volkswagen of America doubled down on its stunt and put out a finished version of the press release. Tuesday afternoon, though, the company admitted the whole thing was an “April Fool’s joke” gone wrong. For more, please see our follow-up article. Our original story on the hoax follows.
In what seemed to be a shocking goof — pun absolutely intended — Volkswagen of America on Monday briefly posted an unfinished press release announcing a plan to change its name to Voltswagen of America.
Volt as in… electricity. Get it? Because Volkswagen (VLKAF) is selling electric vehicles now.
This coming Thursday being April 1, a.k.a. April Fools’ Day, it was unclear if this was a premature release of a real plan that was supposed to be announced about a month from now – or just a premature release of a moderately funny gag. Fake press releases are a staple of the unofficial holiday, and car companies often get into the game with releases touting things like the Mini Yachtsman, a 2012 gag by BMW’s Mini Cooper in which the company announced it was making an amphibious car. (Of course, it wasn’t.)
On the other hand, this wouldn’t be the first time a company played with its name in order to promote big changes. In 2018, the restaurant chain IHOP announced a plan to change its name to IHOb. IHOP stands for International House of Pancakes. The temporary change was done to promote the chain’s new Ultimate Steakburgers.
CNN Business has been unable to confirm whether or not the plan is real. As of Monday afternoon, the name Voltswagen did not appear in a search of the US Patent and Trademark Office’s database of trademark applications, though that does not prove the plan isn’t real either, as the company would not have had to apply at this point and could for instance have opted to hold off on such an application for fear its plan would be discovered.
There is a Voltswagen Twitter account, though, used by Volkswagen UK. That account has not been active for several months, however, last tweeting in September of 2020. According to the now-removed press release the name change of Volkswagen of America to Voltswagen of America is to begin in May.
That leaves several possibilities for what’s going on: This could have been just a joke, or it could be a real plan as some media outlets have reported citing an anonymous source or sources. It also might have been a tentative plan, revealed before it was fully baked, that never ultimately transpires.
Germany’s Volkswagen has announced major moves into the electric car market with the release of the ID.3 electric car and the ID.4 electric compact SUV. VW doesn’t intend to sell the ID.3 in the United States, but the ID.4 is being sold here. The parent company, which will not be changing its name, according to the release, also recently announced major investments in battery manufacturing.
The name Volkswagen means “people’s car” in German. A volt — as in Voltswagen — is a measure of electrical force. If real, the “Voltswagen” name would also not be the first use of the measurement in relation to a vehicle. General Motors built the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt, known as the Opel Ampera in Europe, from 2011 to 2019.