Volkswagen is to be examined by the SEC – “Voltwagen” April Fool’s stunt could have influenced the stock market price
Volkswagen’s seemingly harmless April Fool’s joke sparked the PR nightmare as the company is currently under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and whether the PR gag affected the stock market price or not.
According to a report in Der Spiegel, the Volkswagen Group confirmed that the SEC had requested information from its subsidiary Volkswagen Group of America. The investigation is at an early stage and the automaker is working with the authorities.
On March 29, VW America announced in an unintentionally unfinished press release that it would officially rename itself to “Voltwagen” on April 29, apparently to mark its electric offensive.
A finished version of the press release was later released, along with a quote from VW America CEO Scott Keogh celebrating the name change. Links to this press release have also been emailed to various high profile journalists in the industry.
Given the timing of the release, it was possible the whole thing was just an April Fool’s joke, but VW America spokesman Mark Gillies assured the media that the name change wasn’t going to be a prank. The story was then picked up by many media outlets, but the very next day VW revealed that it was just an April Fool’s joke.
This sparked a firestorm in the media – major news outlets were furious and accused Volkswagen of misleading them. The automaker said the gag, as unusual as it may be, was “justified” because it had just launched the ID.4 electric vehicle in the country. The joke should also be “fun” and shouldn’t affect the company’s stock market price.
Der Spiegel said the Voltwagen stunt was a failure and many leading US media outlets were upset. The fake press release has also cost the group’s credibility and may have breached internal company guidelines. It was soon reported that the trick was developed by VW’s leading marketing agency, Johannes Leonardo.