Volkswagen April Fool’s ‘Voltswagen’ joke backfires

Volkswagen said it was rebranding to ‘Voltswagen’ before elaborating that it was actually all just a joke (VW)

Volkswagen has admitted that statements it released in the US regarding a name change were, in fact, a joke.

The car company told American consumers it was changing its name to ‘Voltswagen’ as a way of stressing a commitment to electric vehicles.

Putting out a fake news release (then removing it again) VW claimed it was changing its name as ‘a public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.’

The news was also emailed to a bunch of media outlets who were deeply sceptical of the announcement.

Pretty soon, the company ‘fessed up.

Mark Gillies, a spokesperson for the company, confirmed it was an April Fool’s joke gone wrong.

‘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,’ he said.

Leaving aside the idea of an April Fool’s joke that’s not actually on April Fool’s, VW is desperately trying to distance itself from the emissions scandal of 2015.

The Volkswagen AG BUDD-e concept long-distance electric vehicle (EV) sits on display during an unveiling event at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (Getty)

The ‘clean diesel’ scandal came to light in the US, and revealed 11 million diesel VW cars around the world were rigged with software to underplay the CO2 emissions.

Now, VW reckons it can position itself to take on Tesla in the electric car market. But, the consensus is that badly-timed jokes are not the way to go about it.

‘This is the most pressing challenge of the auto industry: ‘Can you go electric?’’ said Tom Morton, chief strategy officer for the U.S. at advertising firm R/GA in New York, told Al Jazeera.

‘Choosing to joke about it undermines their commitment.’

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