VW's 'Voltswagen' lie: What happened and why you should care

Volkswagen's ill-judged marketing stunt left us with a sour taste, and did you the reader a massive disservice.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read
2022 Volkswagen Taos
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2022 Volkswagen Taos

There are marketing stunts, and there are April Fools' jokes. What pulled this week is neither of those. The company that spent billions of dollars rectifying lies about its over-polluting cars last decade, Volkswagen purposefully lied and misled to support the launch of its first electric car in the US, the ID 4. In the process, the company did you, the reader and consumer who may buy one of its cars, a massive disservice.

Let's back up for a moment and explain what happened. On Monday, USA Today reported on a leaked press release dated for April 29 from VW. The release explained Volkswagen of America would embark on a name change to become "Voltswagen of America." So close to April Fools' Day, it seemed hard to believe.

On two separate occasions that day, Roadshow spoke with Volkswagen representatives to confirm its authenticity and received assurance this was no piece of fake news. Indeed, we learned it was legitimate, and published the story. Confirmations from numerous other media outlets grew in tandem.

On March 30, following an official tweet and separate (now deleted) press release flush with comment from VW of America's CEO Scott Keogh on the official change, we updated our story with public confirmation. In the process, Volkswagen stock rose 5% on the news.

But, hours later, we learned this was all a kind of grand marketing stunt to drum up clicks for the ID 4 electric SUV and steer eyeballs onto the Volkswagen brand. We didn't even learn it from VW, mind you, which remained silent. Excellent reporting from Reuters first discovered VW had no intention of changing its name and had lied to dozens of reporters, including Roadshow.

It may seem easy to brush this off as something "designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fool's Day," as Volkswagen told Roadshow in a statement Wednesday. Instead, the eyeballs showed up and misinformation won the day. Jest is one thing, and a fun stab at the "Voltswagen" name on April 1 could have been creative and fun. Lying to reporters on March 29 for a headline is another. In the process, you, the reader, now question the integrity of the reporting.

At Roadshow, I speak on behalf of all my colleagues in saying we strive to bring you the most up-to-date, honest and factual information available. It's why the staff collectively felt we needed to tie a bow on this debacle of a hoax, and explain what in the world just happened in the last two and a half days.

In the past hour, VW issued a statement saying it's "sorry for the confusion this has caused." We're not confused, just surprised this kind of behavior made it past a marketing workshop. And it's a shame because the ID 4 deserves so much more than a lie.

2021 VW ID 4 in the wild

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