Volkswagen of America made misleading claims this week, stating that it would change its brand name to “Voltswagen” to emphasize its dedication to electric cars, only to backtrack on Tuesday and confess that the alleged name change was a joke.
A group spokesperson, Mark Gillies, announced Tuesday that the statement was a pre-April Fool’s Day joke after insisting Monday that the name change was correct and the statement was genuine. The company’s misleading statement was spread again on Tuesday, this time claiming that the name-change move represented a trend toward more battery-electric cars.
Volkswagen’s purposefully fake press release, which is particularly rare for a large public corporation, coincides with its efforts to rebuild its reputation as it seeks to rebound from a 2015 debacle in which it cheated on government emissions tests and permitted diesel-powered cars to unlawfully pollute the air.
The company’s false news announcement, which was leaked on Monday and then replicated in a mass e-mail to reporters on Tuesday, resulted in stories about the name change appearing in a number of media sources, including The Associated Press.
The firm went beyond convincing reporters that its press release was genuine by wrongly declaring a name change. On Tuesday, the firm emailed a press release to reporters in which its CEO revealed the fake change.
In the release, Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, 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.”
Volkswagen could face trouble with US securities regulators as a result of the bogus statement, as its stock price increased nearly 5% on Tuesday, the day the bogus statement was officially released. Investors have recently reacted favorably to reports of companies growing electric vehicle demand, increasing the valuation of Tesla and some EV startups’ stock.
This week’s Volkswagen event parallels one from 2018, when Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that he had raised funds to take the firm private — a statement that improved the stock price. The financing had not been obtained, it was later revealed. Musk and Tesla promised to pay the SEC $20 million in fines.
Volkswagen released a statement late Tuesday announcing that it would not change its brand name to “Voltswagen.” and that the “The renaming was designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fool’s Day”.