VW’s Voltswagen debacle was no laughing matter to authorities.
Volkswagen's renaming stunt late last month has drawn the eye of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a new Der Spiegel report. The agency has opened an investigation into the company to determine if VW's poorly executed April Fools' Day joke announcing it would change its name to Voltswagen affected its stock price.
Details about the investigation are scarce at the moment, though the company did confirm to the German publication that the US agency had requested information from its subsidiary Volkswagen Group of America (VWoA), and it is cooperating with authorities.
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The whole debacle began a few days before April 1 when the company "accidentally" published a press release announcing it would be changing its name. A day later, on March 30, VW followed through by changing its logos, updating its social media to reflect the new name, and issuing an actual press release about the change, which included comments from VWoA's President and CEO Scott Keogh.
However, on March 31, VW issued a non-apology about the PR stunt, though the damage had been done. The company's ruse miffed many news outlets, which published the name change as fact. Even Motor1.com published the breaking news, but we were mistaken like many others. A look at the company's stock price during the fake name change shows the stock price climbed 12.5 percent before correcting the record.
The joke was a bold move for a company focusing on electrification after it burned the trust of consumers and regulators in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, which has cost the company billions of dollars in fines. VW has put a lot of effort behind its ID line of electric vehicles, with ID.4 deliveries starting in the US last month. The cheeky name change could have worked as a joke if VW had gone about it differently. Instead, it has US regulators investigating, and it's doubtful they're laughing about it.