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Volkswagen investigated by SEC over 'Voltswagen' prank

The agency is looking into whether the EV-themed April Fool's joke influenced the brand's stock price.

2021 VW ID 4

The name-change stunt, which was meant to draw attention to the ID 4 EV, only managed to earn the ire of the automotive press and now the attention of the US government.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

It's pretty safe at this point to say that Volkswagen's attempt at an April Fool's Day prank, in which it claimed to be changing its name to "Voltswagen," was an unmitigated disaster that severely damaged the automotive media's trust in the organization and likely damaged the public's image of the company as well. Still, it looks like embarrassment is the least of VW's worries.

According to a report published Thursday by Der Spiegel, the Securities and Exchange Commission has decided to launch an investigation into Volkswagen's North American arm to determine if the whole Voltswagen affair influenced the brand's stock price.

While it's unlikely that Volkswagen will suffer anywhere near the financial penalties it saw for its diesel cheating scandal, it will likely have to go into its pockets should the SEC find against it. We've seen similar investigations into automakers like Tesla after its founder Elon Musk sent his fateful "Funding Secured" tweet a few years ago.

The Voltswagen thing may seem like a silly reason to be upset with a company -- after all, it was supposed to be a joke, right? But the fact that Volkswagen deliberately lied to the press when asked if it was a joke, and attempted to pawn off its joke as a legitimate name change, irrevocably damaged the brand's credibility -- which it's spent years trying to claw back after Dieselgate.

The SEC investigation seems to be in the early stages, and while we reached out to Volkswagen representatives for comment, we didn't hear back in time for publication.

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