Volkswagen admits that the rebranding comments and statements made in 2021 were only an April Fool’s joke. Some marketers are wondering if the gimmick did more harm than good to the brand.
Media and auto industry experts were buzzing at the news that the German automaker was changing its American division to “Voltswagen.” It was even seen as a nod to the company’s commitment to developing electric vehicles.
It was even thought of as a fun way to promote the Volkswagen ID4, which is an EV SUV.
The problem is that the company claimed it was real when journalists started asking if this name change was an April Fool’s joke. It wasn’t until later in the day that the company decided to come clean.
The SEC Has Stock Price Manipulation Concerns
Although it is unlikely that Volkswagen will have anything remotely close to the diesel cheating scandal fines to manage with the Voltswagen stunt, the SEC isn’t laughing. An investigation was launched at the end of the month to determine if the “joke” was a ploy to influence the brand’s stock price.
This investigation isn’t without precedence. The SEC did something similar when Elon Musk tweeted “Funding Secured” a few years ago with Tesla.
It might be a silly joke, but there is still the fact that the company lied to the press when asked if the concept was a joke. They pretended that it was real, which is what drove lots of excitement for the company. That’s why an investigation is merited.
This ploy, although creative, also brings into question the intelligence of approaching something risky. Volkswagen has spent years trying to restore its reputation after dealing with the diesel engine issues. Why risk it over a joke?
The SEC investigation is still in its early stages. Findings should be released by the late summer or early fall if penalties are considered justified.