The whole set-up seemed a little over the top.
Besides, in the minds of those holding global stereotypes, Germans are – perhaps unfairly – not known for a clever sense of humor.
So when the German automaker Volkswagen trumpeted a name change to “Voltswagen,” we led with this:
“Voltswagen” a dumb idea? A brave strike toward the future? An April Fool’s joke?
Turns out the answer was the “joke.”
“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,” said Mike Tolbert, VW’s U.S.spokesman, in an emailed statement as part of a CNBC story.
The company is expected to follow-up with an explanation for the marketing strategy, a person familiar with the plans told CNBC.
Volkswagen’s U.S. subsidiary said Wednesday that a previous press release announcing the “Voltswagen” rebranding was just a prank.
Volkswagen’s intent is to become a world leader in the production and distribution of electric vehicles – hence the “volt” in the name – but perhaps the method of stirring interest was a bit tone deaf.
A Business Insider reminded consumers of a boy-who-cried-prank reality.
“… just four years ago (VW) pled guilty to deceiving U.S. environmental regulators by cheating emissions tests. In the wake of the scheme to sell roughly 590,000 dirtier-than-promised diesel vehicles, VW was ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to pay $4.3 billion in civil and criminal fines.”
The misdirection could have consequences, not only with Wall Street money (the company saw a 10% bump in the value of its shares after the announcement), but of trust in company sources.
Many media companies went with the story as news, confirmed by previously trusted VW sources who apparently lied to several reporters.