Volkswagen has been accused of “deception” and spreading “misinformation” in the US following an early April Fool’s prank which suggested the German car brand was set for a ‘Voltswagen’ rebrand.
A press release issued from the brand’s US base at Auburn Hills, Michigan, yesterday (March 30) headlined "Voltswagen: A new name for a new era of e-Mobility", caused a stir on social media as it appeared a bizarre re-brand tied to its push towards electrification could be on the cards across the Atlantic.
The release announced, "the official change of its US brand name from Volkswagen of America to Voltswagen of America".
As part of the prank, division president and chief executive Scott Keogh was quoted in a message posted via Twitter – later deleted – that said: "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."
But the early April Fool’s Day joke backfired after bona fide journalists who contacted Volkswagen US to ascertain for certain whether there was any truth in the statements were allegedly told it was true.
Reporter Nathan Bomey reported the rebrand as fact at USA Today, asserting that “VW was not hacked, the announcement is not a joke, it's not a marketing ploy and the plan is for the change to be made permanent” after talking to “a person familiar with the company's plans”.
Veteran Detroit automotive writer Michael Wayland also claimed that he initially received a "no comment" from a spokesman before "a person familiar with the company's plans” confirmed the release’s authenticity.
Reuters news agency, which had also reported the Voltswagen rebrand as fact, eventually quoted three internal sources at Volkswagen who confirmed the move was nothing more than a marketing stunt.
But an angered Bomey later took to Twitter accusing an unnamed source at VW of lying to him and other news outlets. He said: “This was not a joke. It was deception. In case you hadn’t noticed, we have a misinformation problem in this country. Now you’re part of it.”
A Volkswagen spokesman in Wolfsburg told The Wall Street Journal: "We didn’t mean to mislead anyone. The whole thing is just a marketing action to get people talking about the ID.4."