Volkswagen has been forced into an embarrassing U-turn after a ‘joke’ that it planned to change its name backfired spectacularly.
The German firm told media on Monday that it would be changing its name to ‘Voltswagen’ in the States to stress its commitment to electric vehicles.
But the car firm has admitted it was a premature April Fool’s Day joke.
The name change was reported widely by the media – including the Associated Press – as accurate after the news leaked to reporters on Monday.
This was then followed up by an email to reporters yesterday which repeated the ‘joke’ as fact.
Mark Gillies, a VW spokesman, confirmed yesterday that the statement had been a ‘pre-April Fool’s Day joke’, after having insisted on Monday the release was legitimate and the name change accurate.
Someone needs to have a quiet word with VW and explain that April Fool’s Day is a day, not a season…
News agency PA Media reported that the prank was ‘highly unusual for a major public company’ and pointed out it coincides with the firm’s efforts to repair its image as it tries to recover from a 2015 scandal in which it cheated on government emissions tests and allowed diesel-powered vehicles to illegally pollute the air.
Volkswagen previously admitted some 11m diesel vehicles worldwide were fitted with the deceptive software, which reduced nitrogen oxide emissions when the cars were placed on a test machine, but allowed higher emissions and improved engine performance during normal driving.
The scandal cost Volkswagen £25.4bn in fines and civil settlements and led to the recall of millions of vehicles.
At the weekend, Car Dealer reported that Volkswagen has said it will seek to claim damages from its former CEO and chairman, as well as the ex-Audi boss following breaches to their ‘duty of care’ at the company, which led to the dieselgate scandal.
Volkswagen said that it had drawn a line under and ended its investigation into the scandal, which began in October 2015.
However, the result of the investigation is it will be seeking damages from the ex-chairman Martin Winterkorn and Audi AG boss Rupert Stadler, both of whom it deemed responsible for the failures at the group.
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