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Updated at 6:36 p.m. ET
April Fool’s Day came early this year.
Volkswagen of America will not be rebranding to “Voltswagen of America,” despite a statement released on Tuesday that many — from analysts and investors to media outlets like this one — took at its word.
“Volkswagen of America will not be changing its name to Voltswagen,” a spokesman told NPR on Tuesday evening. “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.”
The rebranding announcement was initially posted on a VW press site on Monday before disappearing, which promptly fueled speculation that it might be an April Fools’ Day joke that leaked early. But then the company formally announced the move on Tuesday — March 30.
In its statement, Volkswagen’s U.S. unit claimed it was changing its name to reflect the company’s ambition to transition entirely to electric vehicles.
We know, 66 is an unusual age to change your name, but we’ve always been young at heart. Introducing Voltswagen. Similar to Volkswagen, but with a renewed focus on electric driving. Starting with our all-new, all-electric SUV the ID.4 – available today. #Voltswagen #ID4 pic.twitter.com/pKQKlZDCQ7
— Voltswagen (@VW) March 30, 2021
The statement said the new name would be reflected in advertising and online immediately, with new signs rolling out to dealerships soon, while the electric vehicles sold by VW will be given a “Voltswagen” badge as well.
VW’s statement included a comment from Kimberley Gardiner, identified as “senior vice president, Voltswagen of America brand marketing,” saying that “over the course of the next few months, you will see the brand transition at all consumer touch points.”
But, in fact, you will see no such thing. It was just a stunt — a stunt that moved Volkswagen’s share prices up noticeably, as investors responded positively to the (fake) news.
Volkswagen’s pledge to pivot to electric vehicles, meanwhile is no joke.
Two weeks ago, the global company announced substantial commitments to invest in battery factories and expand charging networks, as part of its ongoing effort to pivot toward electric vehicles, away from gas- and diesel-powered ones.
CEO Herbert Diess said the transformation “will be bigger than anything the industry has seen in the past century.” And VW is not the only company planning a massive transition: General Motors and Volvo have announced they will sell exclusively electric vehicles by 2035 and 2030, respectively.
Volkswagen suffered a devastating blow to its public image after it was caught designing diesel vehicles to cheat on emissions tests. But Volkswagen’s electric ambitions aren’t only about restoring a tarnished reputation.
As concerns mount over climate change and investors look toward clean technology, the entire auto industry is coalescing behind a vision of the future where new passenger vehicles are powered entirely by batteries or other zero-emissions technology.