On Monday, automotive journalist twitter was roiled by the news that Volkswagen—literally the people’s car in German—was going to change its name in the US. According to CBNC, a press release published on VW’s US media site on March 29, but dated April 29 and since deleted, said that from this May, VW will now stand for Voltswagen.
Yes, volt, with a T, as in the measure of electric potential named for Italian scientist Alessandro Volta, and not volks, which is German for people. The release apparently explained the rebranding as a “public declaration of the company’s future-forward investment in e-mobility.”
Once the rebranding is in effect, gasoline-powered VWs will just carry the iconic VW logo (in dark blue), so beloved by fans of the Beastie Boys that they used to rip them off every car they could. Meanwhile, electric VWs—like the competent ID.4 crossover—will proudly wear a Voltswagen badge, with the VW logo in light blue to differentiate the “EV-centric branding.”
CNBC says it confirmed the name change with “A person familiar with the company’s plans” who “asked to remain anonymous because the plans were not meant to be public yet.” A few hours later, Road and Track published a confirmation of the story, citing “a senior employee at Volkswagen of America, who asked not to be named.”
Around the same time, I reached out to some people at VW. Mark Gillies, VW of America’s head of communications, is normally extremely responsive to inquiries, but my question from yesterday is still simply showing as “delivered.” Another of his colleagues replied to an email inquiry with “Sorry, I can’t comment on this.”
A no comment could be read as a confirmation—after all, if it was untrue, VW would call it bollocks, and it hasn’t. And VW of America’s current COO is Johan de Nysschen, the South African executive who is infamous for pushing through a confusing renaming of all of Infiniti’s product line up, then doing exactly the same at Cadillac. And a domain name registration lookup reveals that the URL voltswagen.com has been owned by someone in Germany (as determined by a +49 country code) since 2003, although the registry expires this coming April 18.
However, I still don’t buy it. And I’m not alone in my skepticism; over at Jalopnik, several writers have even promised to get VW tattoos should this rebranding prove to be true. For one thing, this seems to be far more frivolous behaviour than we are used to from VW, even if it is all amped-up about electric vehicles now. What’s more, while Volkswagen is a live US trademark, USPTO has nothing in its Trademark Electronic Search System database for “Voltswagen.” (Which suggests to me that someone could make a quick buck by registering the trademark first, were they so inclined.) And this coming Thursday is, of course, April 1, when people, particularly on the Internet, love to play pranks.