UPDATE: March 31, 2021: Volkswagen isn't actually rebranding to Voltswagen: The name change was an elaborate April Fools' prank, the company confirmed.
"Volkswagen of America will not be changing its name to Voltswagen. The renaming was designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fool's Day, highlighting the launch of the all-electric ID.4 SUV and signaling our commitment to bringing electric mobility to all," the company said in a statement shared by a spokesperson over email.
- German automaker Volkswagen AG is rebranding in the U.S., changing the name of subsidiary Volkswagen of America to Voltswagen of America to reflect the growing importance of electric mobility offerings, according to an announcement. The news leaked earlier this week after Volkswagen accidentally published a press release dated April 29 early, CNBC reported.
- The Voltswagen name change is set to take effect in May and will encompass an overhaul to Volkswagen's brand guidelines and a redesign of the VW.com website. Volkswagen is this month also rolling out ID.4, its first long-range, all-electric SUV, to U.S. dealerships. The offering is representative of the types of vehicles Volkswagen is looking to spotlight as part of the new direction.
- Volkswagen joins other large automakers in reassessing their brand strategies and product line-ups to center more on EVs. The trend is picking up traction as concerns over climate change and demands for companies to take action proliferate.
While a leak took some of the air out of Volkswagen's rebranding announcement, the news still plots a clearer map of the company's future in terms of both its marketing and vehicle fleet, with cars like ID.4 serving as a model for the way forward. Though the full extent of the changes won't go live until May, the Voltswagen branding elements are live today across the company's advertising, website and social media channels. Voltswagen of America is a U.S. operating unit of Volkswagen Group of America and a subsidiary of Volkswagen AG.
The switch to Voltswagen in the U.S. makes an obvious connection to volts, the derived unit for electric potential between two points. Volkswagen is attempting to differentiate between its gas-powered and EV lines by preserving its signature dark blue color for the former while rolling out a lighter blue palette for the latter. The brand at the same time is emphasizing the accessibility of its EV products, a possible bid to stand out from pricey rivals that have disrupted the automotive category, namely Tesla.
"We have said, from the beginning of our shift to an electric future, that we will build EVs for the millions, not just millionaires," Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Voltswagen of America, said in a press statement. "This name change signifies a nod to our past as the peoples' car and our firm belief that our future is in being the peoples' electric car."
Volkswagen isn't alone in betting bigger on EVs and green mobility concepts. General Motors in January debuted the most substantial refresh to its logo in more than five decades, a change meant to embody a new purpose around EVs. The makeover is supported by an extensive ad campaign featuring influencers and public intellectuals like Malcolm Gladwell. GM is hyping the introduction of several new electric vehicles, including a more eco-friendly iteration of the Hummer, which is expected to hit dealerships later this year, and the Cadillac Lyriq. Kia kicked off the year in a similar fashion, dropping "Motors" from its name to better reflect its business goals and transformation affecting the automotive category.
Automakers have broadly faced pressure to invest more in sustainability, as the transport sector remains one of the most significant contributors of greenhouse gases. But Volkswagen carries heavier baggage than some rivals and earning consumer trust could be a longer road. The company was embroiled in a widely covered scandal in 2015 after the Environmental Protection Agency claimed VW cars sold in the U.S., including the Jetta, Beetle, Golf and Passat, cheated emissions tests through a "defeat device." Consequences from the event, dubbed "Dieselgate" by some, continue to reverberate more than half-decade later. Volkswagen last week asserted claims for damages against former chief executive Martin Winterkorn and former Audi top brass Rupert Stadler, per Reuters.
Volkswagen's rebrand builds on other commitments to combat climate change. The company was the first major automaker to support the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, per the announcement. It is also one of the five brands that signed on for proposed fuel economy regulations in California that impose stricter thresholds on carbon dioxide emissions. Recent ad campaigns have championed electric vehicles as the next evolutionary step for mobility, and Volkswagen plans to tow a similar narrative line throughout the year.
"The tone of Voltswagen will be a consistent thread between the branded communications for our growing electric fleet to our gas vehicles," Kimberley Gardiner, senior vice president of Voltswagen of America's brand marketing division, said in a statement. "Over the course of the next few months, you will see the brand transition at all consumer touch points."