Volkswagen ended the confusion on Tuesday evening: contrary to what had been officially announced earlier today, the group will not rename itself “Voltswagen” in the United States. It was an April 1 joke, a spokesperson confirmed. The venerable German manufacturer had surprised by claiming to want to change the name of its subsidiary in the country to “Voltswagen of America” to symbolize its turn towards electric.
Everything had been done to give this announcement an official character, between press release on the American site and change of the Twitter account. It was widely covered in the media. A spokesperson in the United States, interviewed by the agency, even confirmed the contents of the press release on Tuesday. But this information, unveiled two days before a day known for its traditional hoaxes and when the group is launching a new electric vehicle in the United States, also raised doubts.
– Voltswagen (@Voltswagen) March 3, 2020
Launched in the electrical niche
Another spokesperson for the group confirmed on Tuesday evening that it was indeed a hoax. The ad didn’t sound completely unreal. Volkswagen has big ambitions: the company intends to become the world leader in the niche of electric vehicles from 2025, ahead of Tesla. In the country of Elon Musk, the company seemed to want to accompany this strategy with a great marketing shift by referring in its very name to the “volt” electrical unit. Especially since the group is particularly known in the United States for the “dieselgate” scandal, which cost it billions of euros and part of its reputation.
General Motors, another automotive giant, had also unveiled at the beginning of the year a new logo intended to symbolize its shift towards vehicles that do not emit polluting emissions, with in particular a new shape for the letter M supposed suggest an electrical outlet. Without going so far as to change its name, GM has significantly changed its graphics and colors.
The Volkswagen subsidiary in the United States had started by broadcasting a document on the subject on Monday evening, apparently by mistake. What already raise questions about the possibility that it is a hoax of April 1, the German press being particularly fond of jokes and pranks of all kinds in this period.
A spokesperson for Volkswagen in the United States assured during the day that the change was initially to be announced on April 29 and that it reflected the evolution of the models offered by the group. This transformation also coincided with the launch in the country of a promotional campaign for the ID.4 vehicle, Volkswagen’s all-electric SUV. It should only concern the “Voltswagen of America” brand, the subsidiary of the company which markets the group’s cars in the United States, and not the whole company.
A similar farce for the launch of a Golf in 2003
The spokesperson did not respond to questions, however, after a Wall Street Journal article appeared claiming that for communications officials at the company’s headquarters in Germany, the name change was a joke in the service of ‘a promotional campaign. Columnist of the media specializing in advertising Advertising Age, EJ Schultz was also skeptical, stressing in particular that the company had not registered the trademark “Voltswagen”.
“If VW made a gesture of this magnitude, it would seem likely that the company would make executives available for interviews. This was not the case Tuesday morning,” he also noted. Wedbush analysts have in any case taken the announcement seriously, saying in a note that it “reflects the group’s vision for the electric”.
Faced with the growing awareness of the problems linked to climate change, the niche of electric vehicles has become the new darling of traditional manufacturers like many start-ups. And in this market, Volkswagen is positioning itself more and more as a direct rival of Tesla to arouse the enthusiasm of customers and investors alike.
The group is not at its first communication blow of its kind: for the launch of a new Golf in 2003, Volkswagen had renamed the city where it is based in Germany for a few weeks, Wolfsburg, in “Golfsburg”.