Days before April Fools' Day, Volkswagen of America leaked a prank press release stating the company plans to change its name in the U.S. to "Voltswagen."
It was a practical joke made on March 29 and debunked on March 30, at least 48 hour before April Fools' Day. Less than 24 hours after CNBC reported an accidental posting of the press release, Volkswagen confirmed the "...public declaration of the company's future-forward investment in e-mobility."
“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,” Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Voltswagen of America, said in the statement that has now been removed from VW's site.
The name "Voltswagen" would appear on the exterior of electric vehicles, while gas vehicles would still retain the VW logo that debuted on the ID 3 electric car in 2019. The VW logo will retain dark blue accents for gas cars, while EV's will get a light blue color, so the prank went.
The Voltswagen prank called attention to its growing electric vehicle lineup, but it inadvertently called attention to its dirty past.
In 2015, Volkswagen admitted to cheating U.S. diesel emissions tests that affected 11 million vehicles worldwide touted as clean diesel, including Audi and Porsche models. VW spent more than $10 billion buying back the affected cars in the U.S., and paid $4.7 billion in penalties and $1.2 billion to dealers. To offset the emissions from "dieselgate", Volkswagen had to commit $2 billion to promote electric vehicle use. It launched Electrify America, a subsidiary building fast-charging networks across the U.S., to underpin Volkswagen Group's rollout of electric vehicles.
The prank was specific to Volkswagen of America and it is unclear how it was received at headquarter in Wolfsburg, Germany. Founded in 1937, the name of the world's second largest automaker translates to "the peoples' car."
“The idea of a ‘people’s car’ is the very fabric of our being," Keogh added. "We have said, from the beginning of our shift to an electric future, that we will build EVs for the millions, not just millionaires. This name change signifies a nod to our past as the peoples’ car and our firm belief that our future is in being the peoples’ electric car.”
Earlier this month, Volkswagen joined a chorus of other automakers pledging electric vehicle fleets in the future, including GM. Though Volkswagen didn't set a target for when it would phase out combustion engines, it plans 70 BEVs by 2028 and has committed to manufacturing its own batteries. Its first mass-produced electric vehicle, the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4, is on sale now, with several planned ID models to follow, including an electric microbus.
Not too long ago, when Chevrolet launched the Bolt EV hatch for 2017, it ran into spoken word confusion with the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid sedan. Chevy emphasized EV in every reference of the Bolt, but hearing it spoken still added confusion between the dissimilar vehicles. The Volt has since been discontinued, while the 2022 Bolt EV was redesigned this year and supplemented by a larger 2022 Bolt EUV model.
This article has been corrected to reflect sources at Volkswagen lied on record when asked to corroborate the name change.