Unwelcome Prank: Volkswagen deliberately ridicules reporters


New York (AP) — Journalists are accustomed to being wary of the weird pranks that pull April Fool’s hoaxes this time of the year. Few people expect it from a multi-billion dollar company.

Volkswagen admitted on Tuesday Having issued a false news release that the US subsidiary was renamed to “Voltswagen of America” ​​to promote an interesting and new electric utility vehicle.

Several media outlets, including The Associated Press, USA Today, CNBC, and The Washington Post, reported the original press release as genuine news.

According to the deception, the company’s stock price temporarily rose. The Wall Street Journal, the first to reveal deception By contacting staff at the German headquarters.

“The Associated Press has repeatedly assured Volkswagen that its US subsidiary plans to change its name and has reported information that is now known to be false,” said Lauren Easton, a spokeswoman for the company. Stated. This and the intentional disclosure of false information undermine accurate journalism and the public interest. “

The story appeared on Monday after a news release was briefly posted on the company’s website and then disappeared, but not before it caught the eye. CNBC, which declined to comment on hoaxes, is believed to be the first major news organization to report it as legitimate news.

According to Easton, AP wrote an article about it on Monday after being guaranteed by a reporter by US corporate spokesman Mark Gillies.

Newspaper spokeswoman Clichy Terrell said in a similar story on USA Today that the reporter specifically asked if it was a joke and said “no.”

“The company used this fake announcement as a way to get the attention of marketing campaigns by manipulating respected reporters from trusted media outlets,” she said. “I’m disappointed that the company chooses this kind of dishonest marketing.”

The first USA Today reporter to lie was more straightforward.

“This wasn’t a joke,” the reporter said. Nathan Bomey wrote on Twitter.. “It was a deception. As some of you may have noticed, there is a problem of false alarms in this country. Now you are part of it. Why does someone need to trust you again?”

First on Tuesday, the company doubled the story by republishing a news release, which quoted Volkswagen President and CEO Scott Keough of the United States. We also changed the Twitter page and announced that “66 is a rare age to change your name, but we are always young.”

There are some precedents for companies trying to make “fake news” jokes. 2018, The food chain IHOP sought to easily convince consumers that they were exchanging the name “P” for “B” and pancakes for burgers...

Gillies cleaned up on Tuesday after presenting incorrect information the day before. The journal states that a spokesman for a German company said: Everything is just a marketing effort to get people to talk about new car models.

APs and other media outlets who misreported the news later wrote about hoaxes. “About the plan to change the name of Volkswagen of America.” Wrote Mike Snyder of USA Today. “Do not worry.”

“Maybe we need to consider whether the marketing campaign was interesting in the original German?” Said Juleanna Glover, corporate consultant and founder at Ridgely Walsh.

According to Grover, the company has advertised millions of dollars since the press release.

“I’m sure VW regrets this move for now, but a good marketing team will find a way to take advantage of wordplay,” she said.

Shon Hiatt, a professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California’s Marshall Business School, said humorous campaigns are not necessarily a problem when presented to reporters jokingly, not falsely.

“I don’t think it hurt them,” Hyatt said. “I don’t think it gave them the full potential boost they wanted.”


Andrew Dalton, an AP entertainment writer in Los Angeles, contributed to this report.