Despite its apology for a rather unfortunate April Fool's stunt, Volkswagen doesn't seem to be in the clear yet. The German brand is currently reported to be undergoing investigations by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for its April fool's stunt, reported German weekly news magazine, Der Spiegel. Media reports say that SEC is looking into the stunt, and how it has affected its share prices. According to reports on New York Post, the stunt saw stocks spike by 12% before the unveiling of the April Fools’ stunt.
Earlier last month, Volkswagen intentionally published a press release draft on 29 March about its US division being rebranded to "Voltswagen of America". The release was removed and the next day, on 30 March, Volkswagen published a full press release quoting president and CEO of the US division Scott Keogh. He said that while it might be swapping out the "K" for a "T", the automotive brand is not changing its brand's commitment to make the "best-in-class vehicles" for consumers worldwide.
What had intended to be an April Fool's joke eventually spun out of control. News of the rebranding was reported by major news outlets including Reuters and CNBC, stating that the move signified Volkswagen's commitment to focus on electric vehicles. The stunt also impacted Volkswagen's stocks on the Frankfurt stock exchange, causing it to rise 4.7% higher. This eventually resulted in a spokesperson from Germany clarifying that the rebranding should not be taken seriously.
In the end, Volkswagen US decided to come clean with the joke and explained that it was meant to be a marketing stunt to raise awareness about its new all-electric ID.4 SUV, and that it was done in the spirit of April Fool's. The press releases were also removed from the Volkswagen US website.
Volkswagen also acknowledged the stunt on its Twitter page saying: "What began as an April Fool’s effort got the whole world buzzing. Turns out people are as passionate about our heritage as they are about our electric future. So whether it’s Voltswagen or Volkswagen, people talking about electric driving and our ID.4 can only be a good thing."
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out Volkswagen for a statement.
This is not the first time Volkswagen has managed to drop the ball in its marketing stunts. In 2020, the brand pulled an ad featuring Golf cars from its Instagram page and apologised for being "racist" and "distasteful". According to multiple media reports including BBC and Reuters, the ad reportedly featured a large pair of white hands "push and then flick" a black man away from the yellow Golf into a cafe known as "Petit Colon", which also translates from French to German as "Little Colonist". The audio in the background contained "a woman's laughter, upbeat music, and comedic sound effects", BBC added.
According to the BBC, German television said that the hand could be thought of as making a "white power" gesture, and that the letters which appear subsequently briefly spell out a racist slur in German. Volkswagen's board member for sales and marketing Juergen Stackmann and head of diversity management Elke Heitmueller, apologised on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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