On Tuesday afternoon, the company admitted the whole thing was an ironic sham that had turned into utter disaster.
“Volkswagen of America is not going to change its name to Voltwagen,” the company said in a statement sent to CNN Business. “The rebranding should be an April Fool’s-Day announcement, highlighting the launch of the ID.4 all-electric SUV and signaling our commitment to making electric mobility available to all. We’ll be providing more updates on this shortly.”
The debacle began with a seemingly shocking play on words – pun absolutely intended – when Volkswagen of America briefly released an unfinished press release announcing a plan to change its name to Voltwagen.
Volts like in … electricity. Got it? because Volkswagen (( now sells electric vehicles. Next Thursday, April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day, it was initially unclear whether it was an early release of a real plan or just an early release of a moderately funny gag. Fake press releases are a staple of the unofficial holiday, and auto companies often come into play with releases announcing 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 on Monday some media began to report, citing anonymous sources at VW, that the idea of the name change was real. This briefly published draft press release reflected a real plan, these reports said.
Then, on Tuesday morning, VW released the full, finished publication. The company presented it as a direct announcement, as if it were the truth when it wasn’t. And it wasn’t April 1st.
In the press release released on Tuesday morning, Volkswagen claimed that in America at least, the Voltwagen name was used in advertisements and on chrome badges on the back of its electric vehicle. The name would not appear on the gasoline-powered cars, the press release says.
This isn’t the first time a company has played some games with their name to drive big change. 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 made to promote the chain’s new Ultimate Steakburger. It’s not yet clear whether Volkswagen’s move will be as temporary as IHOP’s.With the release of the electric car ID.3 and the electric compact SUV ID.4, the German Volkswagen announced important steps in the electric car market. VW does not intend to sell the ID.3 in the US, but the ID.4 is being sold here. The parent company, which the press release says will not change its name, also recently announced major investments in battery manufacturing.