Sometimes, car manufacturers try too hard. The latest example is the Volkswagen non-announcement-turned-announcement-turned prank.
A day after a pending name change was unveiled by USA Today and later confirmed by the manufacturer, the German automaker Volkswagen said it will not be changing the name of its U.S. operations to “Voltswagen of America.”
As many automotive publications speculated, the March 29 missive was thought to be a premature April Fools’ Day joke to raise awareness about the company’s all-electric ID.4. Volkswagen confirmed to publications the report was legitimate.
Volkswagen will get hurt by its own prank
But The Wall Street Journal reported on March 30 the announcement was an elaborate joke.
Volkswagen is expected to announce an update to the bizarre situation on April 1, April Fools’ Day.
An unfinished version of the initial press release went out briefly on VW’s U.S. media newsroom website Monday morning before it was taken down. Media outlets, including CNBC and USA Today reported it as news after it was confirmed by unnamed sources within the company. The sources apparently lied.
The release said the name change wasd expected to take effect in May and called the change a “public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.” It said Voltswagen will be placed as an exterior badge on all EV models with gas vehicles having the company’s iconic VW emblem only.
Volkswagen pranked the experts, yes. But the manufacturer now looks bad.
Electric vehicle sales still account for only about one percent of all car sales in the United States. The tallies aren’t impressive. But BMW to Jaguar and Volkswagen to newbie Rivian, the industry is abuzz with its fascination with the electric vehicle industry.
Pending regulations for mandatory increased gas mileage averages and improved emissions practices are all good.
All major manufacturers are in the game to be at the forefront with new gas-electric hybrids and all-electric options.
Tesla changed the industry. But Elon Musk is not only at the forefront of technology, but he’s also at the forefront of controversy over overall quality control issues and the most recent accusation of the new Tesla buyers being double-charged.
A little more than a decade ago, General Motors introduced the Chevy Volt, plug-in hybrid in 2010, it was heralded as a “car of the future.” It lasted less than a decade with a series of factors prompting the discontinued of the Volt for the all-electric Bolt. Confusion still abounds.
And now Volkswagen’s prank. What was it thinking? It used the car industry and the media to promote the pending VW ID.4, the company’s first long-range electric SUV sold in the United States.
Volkswagen showed off its 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. It’s spent a lot to bring its latest to the car-buying public.
And yet, didn’t VW learn its lesson from its not-too-long 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 tallies. Public trust disappeared.
What will the fallout be this time around? For VW, it likely won’t be pretty, a backfired prank, a hefty volt for the German carmaker, for sure.
And isn’t it time for everyone else in the EV craze to slow down?
Article Last Updated: March 30, 2021.
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A sports, travel and business journalist for more than 45 years, James has written the new car review column The Weekly Driver since 2004.
In addition to this site, James writes a Sunday automotive column for The San Jose Mercury and East Bay Times in Walnut Creek, Calif., and a monthly auto review column for Gulfshore Business, a magazine in Southwest Florida.
An author and contributor to many newspapers, magazines and online publications, James has co-hosted The Weekly Driver Podcast since 2017.