In a move intended to reflect its new push into electric vehicles, Volkswagen’s US arm said Tuesday it was changing its name to “Voltswagen.” Yes, really. Except, not really.
On Tuesday afternoon, the company admitted that the whole thing was a tongue-in-cheek deception that had turned into an utter disaster.
“Volkswagen of America will not be changing its name to Voltswagen,” the company said in a statement sent to CNN Business. “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 will provide additional updates on this matter soon.”
The debacle began Monday with what seemed to be a shocking goof — pun absolutely intended — when Volkswagen of America briefly posted an unfinished press release announcing a plan to change its name to Voltswagen.
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.)
But during the day Monday some media outlets began reporting, citing anonymous sources at VW, that the name change idea was real. That briefly published press release draft reflected a real plan, those reports said.
Then, on Tuesday morning, VW posted the full, finished release. The company presented it as a straight announcement, as if it were the truth, even though it wasn’t. And it wasn’t April 1 yet.
In the release it posted Tuesday morning Volkswagen claimed that, in America at least, it would be using the Voltswagen name in ads and on chrome badges on the backs of its electric vehicle. The name would not appear on the gasoline-powered cars, the release said.
This isn’t the first time a company has played some games 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. It’s not yet clear whether Volkswagen’s move is going to be as much of a temporary stunt as IHOP’s was.
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.