German motor-vehicle maker Volkswagen won't be changing the name of its U.S. subsidiary to "Voltswagen of America," and says a statement announcing the new name was an early April Fools' Day prank, news reports said Wednesday.
Volkswagen says it leaked a false news release on the name change as a funny way to promote a new electric utility vehicle.
"The alleged renaming was designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fools' Day, highlighting the launch of the all-electric ID.4 SUV," Volkswagen representative Mark Gillies says in an emailed statement late Tuesday Eastern time.
An incomplete version of the initial news release went out briefly on the company's U.S. newsroom website before being removed.
News organizations, including CNBC, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and USA Today, reported the release as news after it was confirmed by unnamed sources within Volkswagen - who allegedly lied to several reporters.
The prank even briefly pushed Volkswagen's stock price up. Its American depositary shares were up nearly 9% Tuesday on the over the counter market and were expected to open Wednesday up another 0.5% at $37.77. The Wall Street Journal was the first to expose the deception by contacting a Volkswagen official at the company's headquarters in Germany.
The trickery left some branding experts shaking their heads about Volkswagen's strategy - particularly when the company was at the center of an emissions scandal in September 2015.
"Goofing around about who it is and what it's trying to do...strikes me as really, really bad taste. It's just terrible," Paul Argenti, a professor of corporate communications at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, said.