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SEC to Investigate Volkswagen for Fake Name Change

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating Volkswagen’s intention to change its name to “Voltswagen” as stated in a press release. The investigation will see how the stunt affected the automaker’s stock price, and whether it broke any securities laws.

The faux rebranding took place on March 29th, when Volkswagen’s American subsidiary “accidentally” published a draft press release about changing its name to Voltswagen in a nod to the larger company’s push into electric vehicles.

After some news outlets reported on that errant admission, the company followed up by changing its logos and releasing an official press release on March 30th. The press release included quotes from Volkswagen of America CEO Scott Keogh claiming the change was happening.

However, on March 31, VW issued a non-apology about the PR stunt, though the damage had been done. The company’s ruse miffed many news outlets, which published the name change as fact.

Ultimately, the stunt turned out to be a poorly telegraphed and early April Fools’ joke. Multiple news outlets including the Associated Press said that Volkswagen of America representatives lied and told them the name change was happening.

Details about the investigation are scarce at the moment, though the company did confirm to the German publication that the US agency had requested information from its subsidiary Volkswagen Group of America (VWoA), and it is cooperating with authorities.

Volkswagen’s stock price increased as much as 12.5 percent at one point, the equivalent of billions of dollars of market value. It’s unclear what the SEC is specifically interested in learning about, or what laws VW could have even broken in the first place.

But the agency has previously come after Tesla CEO Elon Musk for tweeting things that turned out not to be true about his company, and Volkswagen has a well-documented history of lying to regulators in the US, too.

The joke was a bold move for a company focusing on electrification after it burned the trust of consumers and regulators in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, which has cost the company billions of dollars in fines.

Volkswagen has put a lot of effort behind its ID line of electric vehicles, with ID.4 deliveries starting in the US last month. The cheeky name change could have worked as a joke if VW had gone about it differently. Instead, it has US regulators investigating, and it’s doubtful they’re laughing about it.

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