Volkswagen US CEO Takes Blame for Name Change Blunder

by John Jamison

April Fool’s Day is a fun tradition full of pranks and practical jokes. And in these times, the value of a lighthearted joke can’t be overlooked. But what happens when an iconic car manufacturer like Volkswagen takes it too far?

In an attempt to drum up publicity and call attention to their line of electric cars, Volkswagen of America pulled a stunt that was a little too convincing. The Associated Press reports that the car company issued statements this week announcing a name change to “Voltswagen.”

The most confusing part for media outlets was the pre-April Fool’s Day nature of a statement leaked on Monday. According to AP, the company doubled down when they emailed the statement directly to reporters, confirming the name change. Media outlets ran with the news and reported it as real.

Scott Keogh, President and CEO of Volkswagen of America said, “We might be changing out our K for a T, but what we aren’t changing is this brand’s commitment to making best-in-class vehicles for drivers and people everywhere.”

The statement was fake. But the repercussions were not.

The prank had a very real impact on the stock market, with AP reporting close to a 5% rise in Volkswagen stock price on Tuesday. Joking around with the market is a big no-no and can land you in financial hot water.

In addition to the press release itself, Volkswagen posted a tweet in support of the name change.

The tweet is still up as of Friday morning. So it’s possible the company isn’t overly worried about the backlash it’s getting in the media.

Volkswagen representatives in both the United States and Germany have released statements saying there will be no name change.

Volkswagen CEO Wants to Rebuild Trust

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Scott Keogh talked about the debacle.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine it taking hold. If there’s any trust or credibility to be rebuilt from me, I’m going to do it,” he said.

While the CEO has owned up to the mistake, he doesn’t seem overly regretful. After all, any press is good press, right?

“It was a gag with humor, whether you like it or not. The upside is, obviously, the social response has been the biggest numbers we’ve ever seen,” he said in the interview.

However you look at it, companies as big as Volkswagen generally don’t mislead people to this extent. The prank certainly didn’t make the company any friends in the media.