Volkswagen US chief takes blame for name change debacle

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The head of Volkswagen’s US business says he’ll be responsible for cleaning up after the automaker’s clumsy marketing prank this week.

Scott Keogh, the CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, took the blame for his company’s botched attempt at an April Fools’ joke in which it declared it would rename itself “Voltswagen.”

Many consumers and investors took the Tuesday announcement seriously even though VW said it was just a gag meant to highlight its commitment to electric vehicles — a reaction Keogh claims he didn’t expect.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine it taking hold,” Keogh told The Wall Street Journal in a Thursday interview. “If there’s any trust or credibility to be rebuilt from me, I’m going to do it.”

Keogh was quoted in a joke news release trumpeting the change that appeared on Volkswagen’s US communications website Tuesday.

A draft of the release was prematurely published on the site Monday and taken down before the final version was posted, suggesting the rebrand was for real. VW’s corporate Twitter account also posted a tweet about the change that had yet to be taken down as of Friday morning.

“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,” Keogh said in the release.

Keogh told the Journal that VW thought it would be clear the stunt was meant as a joke and that it wasn’t meant to trick the public. But the automaker’s headquarters in Germany had to walk back the announcement after it became clear that not everyone shared its sense of humor.

Keogh reportedly sees a silver lining in the debacle: it brought attention to VW’s focus on electric cars such as its ID.4 SUV.

“It was a gag with humor, whether you like it or not,” he told the Journal. “The upside is, obviously, the social response has been the biggest numbers we’ve ever seen.”

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