Ed. Update (3/30/21) – Volkswagen has since confirmed it has no plans to change its name in the U.S. The company says the stunt was intended as a joke and marketing campaign, despite the company’s communications team blatantly confirming to multiple news outlets that the story was indeed true.
What’s in a name? For Volkswagen, it’s one letter as VW plans to change its name to “Voltswagen” in the United States.
A Volkswagen employee briefly posted a press release about the name on the company’s website March 29. A reporter from USA Today saw it; it was dated April 29. An unnamed VW source said a formal announcement would come on March 30.
“We might be changing out our K for a T, but what we aren’t changing is this brand’s commitment to making best-in-class vehicles for drivers and people everywhere,” VW of America CEO Scott Keogh in the premature release.
This leaked release comes as VW is accepting reservations for its new ID.4 electric SUV, the company’s only electric model for sale here now but more are coming, including a riff on the company’s Microbus.
While it may come as a shock to some customers, the Voltswagen moniker will not be applied to the gasoline-powered cars; they will simply be branded VW. Only a fraction of the electric vehicles sold here will carry the name Voltswagen. VW sold just under 326,000 VW-marked vehicles here in 2020.
Audi, Bentley, Bugatti and Lamborghini, the other brands under Volkswagen Group of America’s umbrella, will not change names.
VW has been trying to undo the tarnish to its reputation since 2015, when U.S. authorities revealed that the company’s “clean diesel” vehicles cheated on federal emissions tests. VW pleaded guilty and agreed to pay $4.3 million in civil and criminal penalties, atop billions more to buy back cars. Two people went to prison.