Nope. Not an early April Fool’s Day joke. Volkswagen of America is changing its name to Voltswagen in celebration of its all-in attitude toward EVs, the company’s spokespeople kept insisting.
Except it was supposed to be an April Fools joke, and the spokespeople were outright lying when asked a serious question by serious journalists.
Because of a conflicting assignment, TheGreenCarGuy didn’t report on the purported name change when that bombshell dropped via an official VW of America press release dated March 30 but e-mailed to journalists around the country on March 29.
But dozens of other outlets did. Associated Press, USA Today, the BBC and CNBC were among them. Many called and asked if it was a joke. All were told no, that VW would stand for Voltswagen in the U.S. come May.
The fact that the news came several days before April 1 helped in persuading many that this was not a prank. After all, who lands an April Fool’s joke on March 29?
Besides, real people – top officers at VW of America – were quoted in the release.
The company even put the news out on its social media channels.
But late in the afternoon on March 30, VW of America admitted the whole thing was, indeed, a prank.
The auto writers forum on Face Book is burning up with outraged complaints. Some editors complained that they paid freelancers good money to chase down and write up the story – a story that they must now toss into the trash. And more than a few writers who don’t get paid unless the story runs complained of wasting hours chasing what turns out to be nonsense.
VW ought to offer compensation, to writers and outlets that lost cash or time chasing the “story.”
It wouldn’t be the first time the company had to pay for lying.
The infamous VW diesel emissions cheating scandal cost the company $35 billion in fines after it was caught fiddling its emissions tests to get passing grades in the U.S.and Europe for vehicles that were spewing far more noxious tailpipe gasses than legally permitted.
In the five years since then, the company has been regaining credibility.
The anger among automotive journalists isn’t just over being tricked.
There’s been a pernicious effort for years to paint legitimate journalism as fake news and legitimate journalists as enemies of the people.
To knowingly foster a lie so it becomes news – even a silly one like a 70-year-old company with a well-established name allowing one of its divisions to change it – does no one any good.
Especially the perpetrators of the fib.