The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a large independent agency of the federal government, has opened an inquiry into the US unit of German vehicle manufacturer Volkswagen over a marketing stunt in which it falsely said it was changing its name in the United States to “Voltswagen,” a source confirmed.
The early reports about the inquiry and the SEC’s request for information about the issue were made in early April and quoted Volkswagen as confirming the investigation. In March, the company had apologized after a false statement it issued about a phony name change was widely slammed on social media.
The stunt, which came just ahead of April Fool’s Day on the first of the month, when companies often release prank statements, was meant to call attention to its electric vehicle efforts, the carmaker said.
The initial statement outlining the name change, posted on its website and accompanied by tweets, was reported by outlets globally and included a detailed description of its proposed rebranding efforts and new logos.
Many analysts wrote research notes praising the name change. Volkswagen’s preferred shares, common shares and American Depository Reserves (ADRs) rose on the day of the phony name announcement.
Volkswagen Group of America CEO Scott Keogh clarified in an interview on April 1 that the phony name announcement was a “gag” and an attempt to “have some humor and “to celebrate our profound focus on electrification.”
Volkswagen in 2015 admitted to using illegal software to rig diesel engine tests in the United States, sparking Germany’s biggest corporate crisis and costing the carmaker more than 32 billion euros in fines, refits and legal costs.