(This post has been updated here. It’s an April Fools’ joke gone bad.)
Volkswagen will soon be Voltswagen, at least in the German automaker’s expanding lineup of electric vehicles. And it’s no joke.
First reported by USA Today when one of the publication’s reporters noted the pending change was briefly posted on the manufacturer’s website, the unusual move was immediately perceived as an early April Fool’s joke.
As the news reached other media outlets, Volkswagen removed the website post dated April 29 but was published March 29.
Volkswagen to Voltswagen? Really?
But VW has since confirmed the report, although details remain unclear.
“The automaker said, “more than a name change, ‘Voltswagen’ is a public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.”
“The new name and branding symbolize the highly-charged forward momentum Voltswagen has put in motion, pursuing a goal of moving all people point-to-point with EVs.”
Volkswagen, which translates to the “people’s car,” is the world’s second-largest automaker. It began in 1937 when the German government, then hen under the control of Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party–formed a new state-owned automobile company.
It was known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company.” Volkswagen began selling cars in the United States in 1955.
According to the announcement, electric models would get an exterior badge with the name “Voltswagen.” Gas-powered vehicles will have the standard “VW” badge.
The move would signal a significant pivot for the world’s second-largest automaker, whose U.S. division dates to 1955. It would also come after several competitors, including General Motors and Volvo, recently announced plans to eventually phase out gas vehicles.
Besides immediately viewed as an April Fool’s joke or marketing gimmick, the change will be permanent, according to a VW insider who reported the plans to several prominent publications, including Automotive News, but with approved anonymity.
“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,” VW of America CEO Scott Keogh said in the news release.
Volkswagen showed off their concept I.D. Buzz, a cross between the vintage VW Microbus and a 21st century EV vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2017.
The change would also further distance VW from its diesel emissions scandal. The automaker received penalties of more than $30 billion and faced criminal charges after admitting it lied about its diesel engine emission.
The announcement would also coincide with the arrival of the new VW ID.4, the automaker’s first long-range electric SUV sold in the U.S. It’s part of a new lineup of electric cars under the ID sub-brand, including the forthcoming revival of the VW microbus.
Another speculation is the change will be temporary, since VW has previously used a clever name change. In 2003, Wolfsburg, the city where VW is headquartered in Germany, briefly became Golfsburg. It marked the launch of the fifth-generation edition of the Golf.