Friday, July 30, 2021
Friday, July 30, 2021

The joke’s on Volkswagen after April Fool’s prank badly backfires

By James Raia
Volkswagen has manufactured three of the most popular vehicles in history: the Beetle, Golf and Passat. Last year, the Volkswagen Atlas, a versatile SUV, was named Family Car of the Year. It’s a popular choice among RVers.

But the German automaker has now also made two recent poor choices. One was criminal and settled last year. The second was this week and it was stupid – a failed April Fool’s joke.

The new Volkswagen ID.4 all-electric SUV
The new Volkswagen ID.4 all-electric SUV.

The latest example occurred when Volkswagen turned a non-announcement into an announcement and then into a failed prank when it was caught.

The mess began when Volkswagen briefly posted on the manufacturer’s website that its expanding electrical vehicle lineup would be called “Voltswagen” – a departure from Volkswagen 66 years after the VW Beetle was first available in the United States.

Early April Fool’s joke

First reported by USA Today, the unusual move was immediately perceived as an early April Fool’s joke. But Volkswagen confirmed the press release’s legitimacy but removed the announcement from its website. Additional publications also posted the news.

A day after a pending name change was unveiled, the carmaker said it will not be changing the name of its U.S. operations to “Voltswagen of America.” But it was only after The Wall Street Journal reported the announcement was an elaborate joke. Volkswagen confirmed the newspaper’s reporting.

The pending Volkswagen microbus.
The pending Volkswagen microbus.

The original VW release said the name change was expected to begin in May. It called the change a “public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.”

It said Voltswagen will be placed as an exterior badge on all EV models. Gas vehicles would still bear the company’s VW emblem only.

Volkswagen fooled itself – reputation shattered

Volkswagen pranked the experts, yes. But the manufacturer now looks bad.

Electric vehicle sales still account for only about 1 percent of all car sales in the United States. The tallies aren’t impressive. But BMW to Jaguar and Volkswagen to newbie Rivian, the industry is obsessed with the EV industry.

Pending regulations for mandatory increased gas mileage averages and improved emissions practices are all good.

All major manufacturers are in the game to be at the forefront with new gas-electric hybrids and all-electric options.

Tesla changed the industry. Elon Musk is not only at the forefront of technology, but he’s also at the forefront of controversy over overall quality control issues and the most recent accusation of new Tesla buyers being double-charged.

A little more than a decade ago, when General Motors introduced the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid in 2010, it was heralded as a “car of the future.” It lasted less than a decade with a series of factors prompting the discontinuation of the Volt for the all-electric Bolt. Confusion still abounds.

Volkswagen’s fake news

Volkswagen’s fake news read in part “more than a name change, ‘Voltswagen’ is a public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.”

“The new name and branding symbolize the highly-charged forward momentum Voltswagen has put in motion, pursuing a goal of moving all people point-to-point with EVs.”

Volkswagen, which translates to the “people’s car,” is the world’s second-largest automaker. It began in 1937 when the German government, then under the control of Adolf Hitler of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, formed a new state-owned automobile company.

It was known as Gesellschaft zur Vorbereitung des Deutschen Volkswagens mbH. Later that year, it was renamed simply Volkswagenwerk, or “The People’s Car Company.” Volkswagen began selling cars in the United States in 1955.

According to the announcement, electric models would get an exterior badge with the name “Voltswagen.” Gas-powered vehicles would have the standard “VW” badge.

“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,” VW of America CEO Scott Keogh said in the fake news release.

Volkswagen showed off its concept I.D. Buzz, a cross between the vintage VW Microbus and a 21st century EV vehicle at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2017. The public version, the all-electric ID.4 SUV, debuted at dealers in March.

Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal

But then, there’s VW’s diesel emissions scandal. The automaker received penalties of more than $30 billion and faced criminal charges after admitting it lied about its diesel engine emission, called “Dieselgate.” Volkswagen implemented devices that would help falsify emissions. VW denied wrongdoing but eventually admitted guilt. Its CEO resigned.

And now Volkswagen’s prank. What was it thinking? It used the car industry and the media to promote the pending VW ID.4, the company’s first long-range electric SUV sold in the United States.

Didn’t VW learn its lesson from its recent diesel emissions scandal, which caused public trust to disappear? What will the fallout be this time around? For VW, it likely won’t be pretty. A backfired prank – a hefty volt for the German carmaker, for sure.

And isn’t it time for everyone else in the EV craze to slow down?

James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: james@jamesraia.com.

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Jim B
3 months ago

So, I’m still not getting the “Big Scandal”. This it definitely not comparable to Dieselgate.
My sister texted me on the 1st and said she had ordered a new Voltswagon. I didn’t catch it at first and she had me because she has a nearly new Honda. We both got a big laugh out of it. Seems to me a pretty good publicity stunt to launch their new EV. Actually I think they should follow through and actually use that name.

BILLY Bob Thronton
3 months ago

Oh, this gets better. Mercedes-Benz just settled a class action law suit for 1.5 billion in the US (more in Europe) for falsifying emissions tests over the last number of years. I was on the phone with MB trying to understand my vehicles problems and what I needed to do. I mentioned, look you guys got caught, stop giving me the run a round and tell me the process. Guess what the clown on the phone said; “Mercedes-Benz does not admit fault”. I get the BS line, just hope she didnt actually believe the corporate lie she has to tell customers. Oh, and then we have the current corporate cancel culture getting into canceling MLB, and other BS.

Take a stand and punish those who do not uphold the values of the laws and beliefs on what this country was founded on, or you will not recognize this place in very short order.

Thomas D
3 months ago

Big a do about nothing.
It’s only logical to name an electric car Volts
Chevy did. No national scandal . I did not see that as an April fool’s joke.

RobinT
3 months ago

I had a New Beetle and loved it, though it was a little small for my needs, so I traded it in after a few years. I don’t really see the point of the article. So what if they made a joke about possibly renaming their electric version? It doesn’t change the product or mislead anyone. Let’s not make mountains out of molehills.

Dale Rose
3 months ago

Actually, VW’s were first sold in the US in 1949. There were only 2 sold that year. VW of America was formed in 1955. So, they have been sold in the US for 72 years.

Jeff Arthur
3 months ago

I find this much ado about nothing. Yet other companies can sell things making claims that are pure fiction . Many listed right here

BILLY Bob Thronton
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Arthur

That in the lexicon is called “puffing”. VW’s was fraud. Carry on.

Tommy Molnar
3 months ago

I know this won’t be a popular comment, but I thought VW’s workaround for emission testing was pure genius.

Gary
3 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Catchin’ comes before hangin’…
It ain’t cheatin’ if you don’t get caught.
 😎 

Last edited 3 months ago by Gary
BILLY Bob Thronton
3 months ago
Reply to  Gary

Gary, can I be right behind you when your standing at the pearly gates, pleading your case for admission. Hint; your standing on a trap door, with nothing to grasp, if the button is pushed. Its a long fall, dude.

BILLY Bob Thronton
3 months ago
Reply to  Tommy Molnar

Till they got caught!!! Love to be a fly on the wall when all the finger pointing went down. They are a disgrace, plain and simple.

Tom H
3 months ago

I’m curious where all of the electricity that will be used in electric vehicles might come from? Recent ice storms in Texas froze up and shut down the wind tech business. Solar? Not yet efficient or economical. That probably leaves coal and nuc. I’m not sure that is an “improvement” over current fossil fuels.

Ron T.
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom H

If cold weather shut down wind turbines they wouldn’t be all over the landscape here in Wisconsin and the rest of the upper U.S. ‘Nuff said?

BILLY Bob Thronton
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron T.

Ever hear of the “Green New Deal” wise up, it’s the government, we just spent 1.9 trillion on dumb stuff, with another 2.2 working it’s way through the one sided legislative body. Wind, solar, it’s all called unreliable energy. Why, tree huggers may ask, well consider this; Night time, no solar, not windy, no generation. This is so basic, it’s knuckleheads at the helm, with no end in sight. Turn off the MSM, they are all dummies with an agenda. You better get involved, because the day where let the other guy do it, IS OVER.

Dennis
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom H

We must eliminate these evil fossil fuels and that evil CO2 that is killing us. No matter what it costs. Right? I’m getting fed up breathing all this CO2 and watching all these plants sucking the stuff up and making everything Green. This must stop. Right?

Tom
3 months ago
Reply to  Tom H

You may want to check your source to complete you facts. TX operates a independent grid and did not implement national standards for the grid. Reading Senator Crus tweets while he vacations in Mexico is not a reliable news source.

Bob P
3 months ago

I have never liked VWs ever since I hitched a ride at Christmas in a bug from St.Louis to Chicago when I was in the Marines in 1962. That was a terrible riding, cramped up car, the college student who gave me the ride was apologetic about the cramped conditions but said that was the first time he’d had 2 people in the car. Later in 1990 I inherited a dune buggy from a neighbor who needed money, it was built on a cut down VW Beetle chassis, I could drive it 2 hrs and bring it home and work on it for 3. German engineering is like no other in the world. Everything is over engineered to the point of making it very difficult to work on.

Jake
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob P

I have owned many different styles of VW’s since 1962 when I paid $1775.brand new with radio and ran the hell out it until after my first enlistment in the Navy..then bought another then bought a Square Back wagon and so on..Now we own a VW Tiguan SUV for 2 years now and get great mileage and still feels like new throughout..yes I have owner other vehicles mainly GM and they have good also..so go buy the Korean junk & someday China but just like younger years when all were making fun of Honda..duh!! now one the best vehicles one can own..so unless you have owned numerous VW’s or Honda and felt a quality vehicle then just go sit on it!!! I am talking from miles & years of experience not the MSM..

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