Volkswagen of America created confusion on Monday and Tuesday by claiming it’s rebranding as “Voltswagen of America” — a statement now identified by multiple media outlets as a prank.
In the now-disputed statement earlier on Tuesday, Volkswagen’s U.S. unit announced it was changing its name to reflect the company’s ambition to transition entirely to electric vehicles.
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. Then the company formally announced the move on Tuesday — March 30.
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.
But company officials with the German parent company were quoted in The Wall Street Journal saying that the statement had been intended as an April Fool’s joke. Reuters also reported that the U.S. unit of Volkswagen would not be changing its name, citing anonymous sources.
The company did not respond to requests for comment from NPR.
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.”
Whether or not the name change is real, Volkswagen’s pledge to pivot to electric vehicles 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.