Volkswagen Group of America pulls ‘shocking’ April Fools’ prank
Herndon-based car company falsely claimed it was rebranding as Voltswagen
Calling it a “public declaration” of its priority on electric vehicles, Herndon-based Volkswagen Group of America Inc. unveiled a new company name, Voltswagen of America, accompanied by new branding, in a news release Tuesday. There was just one problem — the U.S. sales arm of the German automaker confirmed to news outlets Tuesday evening that it had just been engaging in a shocking early April Fools’ gag to generate free publicity for its new electric SUV.
“The renaming was designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fools’ Day, highlighting the launch of the all-electric ID.4 SUV,” company spokesman Mike Tolbert said in a statement.
In the fake release put out earlier on Tuesday, Volkswagen Group of America had said that its increased focus on electric cars was driving the change. The company wants to “build [electric vehicles] for the millions, not just millionaires,” President and CEO Scott Keogh said in the announcement.
Some advertising influencers and journalists were immediately skeptical, pointing to another a fake name change announcement made to gather free publicity: IHOP, the International House of Pancakes, falsely claimed in 2018 that it was changing its name to IHOB in order to promote its burger menu.
However, media outlets including The Associated Press, The Washington Post and CNBC had reported the name change as fact, with some of the outlets saying that company officials had told them the name change was legitimate. The false news also raised Volkswagen’s stock prices for a few hours.
“The Associated Press was repeatedly assured by Volkswagen that its U.S. subsidiary planned a name change, and reported that information, which we now know to be false,” AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton said, speaking to the AP for an article about the hoax. “We have corrected our story and published a new one based on the company’s admission. This and any deliberate release of false information hurts accurate journalism and the public good.”
Volkswagen Group of America said its first long-range electric SUV, the ID.4, was arriving in dealerships this month. It also noted that it was the first major automaker to support the goals of the Paris Climate agreement, and had set a goal of net-carbon neutrality by 2050. Volkswagen plans to launch more than 70 electric models across its brands by 2029, according to the announcement.
Founded in 1955, the company has made Fairfax County its North American headquarters for more than 10 years. In October 2020, the company signed a 20-year lease agreement for 196,000 square feet in a building under construction at Reston Town Center.