Volkswagen Tried to Play an April Fool's Prank. Now, It's in Trouble With the SEC.
The automaker had joked about changing its name to reflect its foray into the electric vehicle market.
In the days leading up to April Fool's Day, the carmaker announced that it would change its name to Voltswagen — a sign intended to reinforce its commitment to making electric vehicles.
"We know, 66 is an unusual age to change your name, but we've always been young at heart," Volkswagen's Twitter account wrote in a now-deleted tweet on March 30. "Introducing Voltswagen. Similar to Volkswagen, but with a renewed focus on electric driving. Starting with our all-new, all-electric SUV the ID.4 — available today."
Scott Keogh, CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, even attempted to get in on the joke, noting at one point that "[Volkswagen] may change our K to a T, but it will not change the brand's commitment to making the best vehicles."
But, as the Times notes, publicly listed companies, like Volkswagen, are not allowed to fool their shareholders, even if they're just joking. Even though Volkswagen of America eventually admitted that the name change was made in jest, it was enough to get the SEC's attention.
In Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered, there are also reportedly laws that require companies to be honest with their shareholders. However, a spokesperson for the country's stock market regulator told the Times that there were no plans investigate the name change.
The newspaper points out that the automaker won't likely face a serious penalty even if the SEC concludes that it violated the law. In the days following the prank, the price of Volkswagen's shares purportedly remain unaffected and jumped in spite of the fact that the company had admitted the name change was a joke.
Justin Chan is a news writer at Entrepreneur.com. Previously, he was a trending news editor at Verizon Media, where he covered entrepreneurship, lifestyle, pop culture, and tech. He was also an assistant web editor at Architectural Record, where he wrote on architecture, travel, and design. Chan has additionally written for Forbes, Reader's Digest, Time Out New York, HuffPost, Complex, and Mic. He is a 2013 graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where he studied magazine journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @jchan1109.