Volkswagen Apparently Played Us and Everyone Else

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Late yesterday, news dropped that Volkswagen planned to change its name to Voltswagen. A lot of automotive journalists noted the date and called out the announcement as a premature April’s Fool prank, but further reporting seemed to confirm that the name change was indeed real.

Turns out that it really is an April Fool’s prank gone awry.

According to Mike Wayland at CNBC, here’s how it all went down: The unfinished press release leaked yesterday, and when reporters at several outlets, including CNBC, contacted VW, they were told the plans were real and not a prank.

Wayland says that sources within the company seemingly lied to the reporters who were making inquiries. He further reports that VW will release a statement tomorrow clarifying it was all a joke.

Now, there are old journalism maxims that cover this sort of scenario — “trust but verify” and “if your mother says she loves you, check it out” — but they don’t really apply so easily if you can’t source documentation or other means to prove/disprove a source’s claims. In other words, the reporters who queried VW were at the mercy of their sources, and when those sources lied, the press had no way to tell.

We, too, got played — Matt wrote a wonderful screed about the supposed change, and I asked you folks just this morning if VW was hurting EV adoption with this idea.

No one likes being fooled — and may I note we’re still 48 hours away from the actual April Fool’s Day — so I went back and re-read the press release. Typically, OEMs insert some sort of language as a tell when they write up a fake release, unless the gag is so absurd as to be obvious. The telling language is usually a subtle way of saying “we’re just joking” to any journalist who hasn’t yet had enough caffeine to process a prank. Oft times, it’s a reference to check the date.

This release, however, scans as straightforward. The quotes sound real. The date is March 30, 2021. Nothing about it signals a joke.

Intentionally or not, Volkswagen fooled a lot of people. I am not mad, but I am also not impressed — either VW really did want to change the name and is using April Fool’s as an excuse to back down from a truly dumb idea, or it was a prank all along and handled in the most ham-handed manner. Neither is a good look.

For now, though, it appears the company isn’t changing the name to Voltswagen. We’ll see what fresh twist the saga brings tomorrow.

[Image: Volkswagen]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at Web2Carz.com. He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for About.com, CarFax, Vehix.com, High Gear Media, Torque News, FutureCar.com, Cars.com, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as AutoGuide.com, Off-Road.com, and HybridCars.com. He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • Kendahl Kendahl on Mar 31, 2021

    There are two ways GM could go. One is to differentiate the three brands by price. Cadillac expensive and luxurious. Chevy low priced and plain but adequate. Buick in between. The other is to give each brand a specific mission even if there is overlap in price. Cadillac would be the luxury brand. Chevy the basic transportation brand. Buick (should have been Pontiac or Oldsmobile) the performance brand. Either way, make GMC the truck and full size SUV brand.

  • Akear Akear on Mar 31, 2021

    VW is still apparently the worlds number two car maker. They can get away with anything. It kind of reminds me of the arrogance of GM 50 years ago.

  • Corey Lewis The short truck is terrible. The tire blocks all rear visibility while making the tiny bed very tricky to access. And the wheels on it look like they're from 2002. Other than that, I really like the idea of the Grenadier and it seems like a good effort. I wouldn't buy one because of the tractor recirculating ball steering, which makes it terrible in everyday use.
  • Bjohnson10 Coast to Coast by the Jesus and Mary Chain. It's only about someone on a cross-country motorcycle trip while high on heroin.
  • Funky D A few from my road trip playlist: Eddie Rabbitt - Drivin' My Life AwayAmerica - Ventura Highway---Herb Alpert - Route 101Jerry Reed - East Bown and DownEddie Money - Shakin'Lindey Buckingham - Holiday RoadWar - Low RiderTears for Fears - Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Not a driving song per se, but if you've seen the video, you'll get it)Wang Chung - Wait (Gotta see the end credits of "To Live and Die in LA", for this one)
  • Ronin Or can sedans be saved from themselves? Modern sedans have very low entry and seating, and unnecessarily downward sloping rear roofs. This may have been a sleek design center 25 years ago, but it's nice to have an alternative to SUVs for the olds (ie, anyone over 30).
  • Bd2 The Hyundai Sonota is the best sedan on the market right now.
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