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It looks like Volkswagen will not be changing the name of its U.S. business to ‘Voltswagen’ after all, with the German carmaker admitting that the marketing stunt from earlier this week was an April Fools’ joke.
Unfortunately, not all jokes are funny, and this time, the SEC might be having the last laugh.
At the start of this week, Volkswagen “accidentally” published a press release that announced the pending name change. The press release was dated a month from now.
The press release, which was published on Volkswagen’s website, was later taken down. It had explained that the carmaker would be known as Voltswagen in the United States, starting in May this year as part of its efforts to accelerate electric vehicle (EV) sales on the American market.
The announcement went viral and media outlets digested the Voltswagen name change and the peculiar way the announcement was “leaked.”
Then came Tuesday, and Volkswagen threw out another bombshell: there would not be any name change, and there never was a plan to change its name to the ridiculous pun that is Voltswagen. According to Volkswagen, the press release was merely part of a marketing campaign ahead of April Fools’ Day.
Yet, the joke is now on Volkswagen, whose media and PR teams have been busy explaining the debacle all week.
“Volkswagen of America will not be changing its name to Voltswagen,” the carmaker said in a statement sent to CNN Business.
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“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 and signaling our commitment to bringing electric mobility to all. We will provide additional updates on this matter soon,” Volkswagen said.
What’s more, the fake press release from Monday could land Volkswagen in the middle of an investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for disseminating misleading information, James Cox, who teaches corporate and securities law at Duke University, told The Associated Press.
Others, like Erik Gordon, a business and law professor at the University of Michigan, think the SEC will investigate only if it believes that Volkswagen knowingly issued the joke-release to deliberately manipulate the stock price.
“It is incredibly stupid, but if being stupid were illegal, a third of the CEOs in the U.S. would be in jail,” Gordon told AP.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.