Home » Why Is Volkswagen So Bad At April Fool’s Jokes?

Why Is Volkswagen So Bad At April Fool’s Jokes?

Tmd Vw Harl
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It’s April 2nd and, as The Autopian does not recognize April 1st (celebrating March 32nd instead), I don’t think we fell for any April Fool’s jokes. This is good because April Fool’s Day, like many things in life, has been co-opted by The Brands. Mostly this results in some mildly humorous or mildly annoying gags, but Volkswagen fumbled the ball this year for at least the second time! What’s the deal?

You know who didn’t fumble the ball? Rivian. The electric truckmaker managed to beat expectations with slightly higher-than-forecast deliveries in Q1. Kia, on the other hand, ended up slightly down in a car market that’s slightly expanding at the moment.

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

And, finally, if you wanted a new Bolt your options are limited as new inventory is starting to dwindle down on what’s probably the best deal in new EVs right now.

Maybe VW Should Just Stop

Id3 Harle

I get the pressure of trying to be funny. It’s hard to try to be funny. There are only two ways to do it in my experience. Either you sort of effortlessly let something happen as the specificity of the moment meets the spark of an idea and you make a joke. The other way is to work hard to continuously refine an idea, a la the professional comedian, until you’ve nailed it.

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There’s a huge gulf in between the two and that’s where Volkswagen seems to forever exist.

Volkswagen infamously pulled a prank in 2021 where it pretended to let slip an incomplete press release that said the company was changing its name to Voltswagen in honor of the growing electrification of VW. This was done so accurately that many journalists were fooled. That is, I guess, sort of the point, but Volkswagen erred in two major ways in this prank.

First, it let the press release slip early so that it didn’t actually happen on April 1st, which created a lot of confusion. This is bad. Don’t do this. If you’re going to be a brand and do a prank, just do it on April 1st or make it so obvious that no one would be confused.

Second, and most dangerously, the press folks at Volkswagen of America let journalists who inquired believe it was real. Stories went up on the wires from journalists assured it was actually happening. It impacted the company’s stock price. Once it was revealed to be a prank everyone got rightly upset.

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The folks at Automotive News were pretty blunt when they printed an op-ed titled “VW lied to sell diesels; now it lied to sell EVs:

The problem, though, besides that April Fools’ pranks are obnoxious, is that it wasn’t harmless. Even after everyone correctly assumed the company was making a lame joke, Volkswagen’s U.S. public relations department insisted, repeatedly and inexplicably, that it was entirely serious.

“We didn’t mean to mislead anyone,” a spokesman for the company that intentionally misled numerous news outlets — including Automotive News, Reuters, CNBC, the Associated Press and The Washington Post — told The Wall Street Journal. The press release, since deleted from its website, included a sincere-sounding quote from Volkswagen of America CEO Scott Keogh, and when reporters asked, point blank, if this was a joke, company representatives firmly said no.

That’s bad. And on the heels of what happened with Dieselgate it just set the company up for comparisons, including this one from Slate titled “What Was VW Thinking With Its “Voltswagen” Prank?

And considering the fallout from 2015’s diesel scandal, which saw Volkswagen get caught gaming the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions tests for its supposedly environmentally friendly vehicles, you’d think VW’s next attempt to promote a climate-conscious green technology would be less … duplicitous.

It was so bad the Securities And Exchange Commission had to look into it. It was just a disaster.

Volkswagen, as it tends to do, has made the same mistake this year, though the joke is more on enthusiasts than journalists, so I guess that’s an improvement.

This post went up on Volkswagen UK’s Facebook page, and it’s clearly previewing a harlequin vehicle of some sort. For those of you who don’t know, the Harlequin cars were a series of extremely popular Volkswagen Golf and Polo models done up by the factory in four different colors (green, yellow, red, blue). They are beloved by enthusiasts. Here’s

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Screen Shot 2024 04 02 At 7.51.40 Am

Volkswagen made the big mistake of sincerely previewing something too early. Again. British car site CarThrottle initially fell for it, though others, like MotorTrend, were a little more skeptical.

When April 1st arrived, Volkswagen unfortunately made a pretty great video highlighting the arrival of a Volkswagen ID.3 Harlequin edition with electroluminescent paint. Harlequin fans got super excited, but anyone who read the press release realized it was all a joke:

The mischievous paint design is set to return this April for the Volkswagen ID.3 – but this time with a trick up its sleeve: the car will have electroluminescent paint similar to the ID.7 concept that Volkswagen unveiled early in 2023. The ID.3 Harlequin’s panels will light up and pulse in response to beats from the car’s sound system and integrate with the new ChatGPT functionality being rolled out across the Volkswagen range.

The limited-edition ID.3 Harlequin is available from 1 April; designs can be viewed on Volkswagen’s online configurator using the code ‘JEST 1’.

In the words of Hannibal Burress:

Thissucksman

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It does, indeed, suck. Volkswagen violated the key principle of April Fool’s by announcing something that seems too real too soon. Here’s how it was received in the Autopian Discord:

Screen Shot 2024 04 02 At 9.35.44 Am

The Harlequin ID.3 is a great idea and something entirely achievable by Volkswagen [Ed Note: And I’d argue the car could use a bit more excitement. Aside from some software issues, the car is solid, but a bit boring. -DT], so it’s less a joke than a taunt. It’s a cruel reminder that VW could make something awesome and, instead, has chosen not to so it can go on and build a bunch more Atlases instead.

Man, it’s almost like all the funny people in Germany left or disappeared for some reason. Weird.

Rivian Beats Expectations

Rivian R1t 2022 1600 18

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We already updated you on how both Tesla and BYD faltered in Q1 of 2024 as a weak economy in China and other extraneous factors contributed to a slide in EV deliveries.

Rivian is the one EV automaker that did slightly better than expected as it managed to deliver 13,588 vehicles (some, presumably, the Rivian Amazon vans) in the quarter and make 13,980. The original estimates were for closer to 12,000 vehicles, so this is a win.

From Rivian:

Production and delivery results during the first quarter of 2024 were in line with Rivian’s expectations. For the full year 2024, management is reaffirming guidance for annual production of 57,000 total vehicles.

Overall, Rivian’s expectations for the year are pretty conservative as it prepares for the approach of the Rivian R3.

March Sales Are Probably Up Overall, But Not At Kia

2025 Carnival
2025 Carnival

March will end up being a good month for the car industry with estimates anywhere between 5% and 12% year-over-year according to Automotive News, but one automaker facing another kinda meh month is Kia.

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What’s going on? There are a few contributing factors.

Kia had a great 2023. It was a record year and being just 2.6% off of last March isn’t a huge deal, overall, although in an expanding market it means Kia is losing market share. But where?

The big drop is in deliveries of cheaper cars, specifically the Kia Soul and the Kia Rio, as well as the long-gone Stinger. If you take out the roughly 2,200 sales that disappeared in March with the discontinuation of the Rio it’s an up month. The Soul, too, was down about 1,700, but that may just be from better competition within the Kia showroom.

A solution to this might be coming in the form of the attractive Kia K4, which should hopefully gain back some entry-level sales if it can be priced right. Sales of the excellent Kia Carnival continue to rise, at least, showing some people have sense. EV sales at Kia were also up 151% with the introduction of the EV9.

Farewell Chevy Bolt

Chevy Bolt

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The Chevy Bolt is GM’s best-selling EV of all time so, of course, the company temporarily discontinued the model before realizing that was a terrible idea and deciding the Bolt would come back, at some point, eventually.

It’s a great car and it’s also a huge shame that there’s this big lacuna in between the outgoing model being available and the new one coming on the market. According to Cars.com there are fewer than 1,000 models for sale nationwide and they’re all 2023 models.

If there’s an upside here for consumers it’s that the vehicles still qualify for the full $7,500 tax credit plus another $1,000 in GM employee discounts according to the Detroit Free Press:

Gordon Chevrolet in Garden City has sold 10 Bolt EUVs so far this year and has one left on the lot, said Gordon Stewart, owner of Gordon Chevrolet.

A 2023 Silver Bolt, priced at about $32,000, is still available, Stewart said. While he has not had any customer interest in it for the past 30 days, he is confident it will sell because there is a GM employee discount of $1,000 and it is eligible for the $7,500 federal tax credit.

“They’re not sale-proof; they are priced right,” Stewart said. “We’ll sell it. We’re not worried about selling it. When you only have one, someone has to like the color and all the features.”

What a bummer. The Blazer EV is too expensive and the Equinox EV will eventually be cheap enough, but who knows how long it’ll be before the actually cheap Equinox EV actually goes on sale.

What I’m Listening To While Writing TMD

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I’ve had Beyoncé’s “Cowboy Carter” album on repeat, including listening to it while driving from the hill country of Texas to the coast. It was quite the soundtrack as we passed the gnarled mesquite and few remaining fields of bluebonnets and indian paintbrushes that fill the roadside ditches with ponds of color every spring. The album features a lot of familiar voices, including Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, but it’s the appearance of Linda Martell that’s the key. Martell attempted to build a career in country music as a black woman in the ’60s and ’70s and eventually gave up after facing a wall of sadly predictable racism.

Viewed through that prism, “Cowboy Carter” is a quixotic attempt to open a door that’s historically been closed to performers of color. And while I don’t particularly love the “Jolene” reimagining, the album is pretty easy to listen to for something that’s attempting to break genres.

The Big Question

Is there an example you can think of where a brand did a good joke on April 1st?

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EricTheViking
EricTheViking
12 days ago

My favourite April Fool’s Day prank was the BMW advertisement many years ago in the United Kingdom. This advertisement showed the glove box unfolding to reveal the second set of gauges, steering column, and pedals (not shown in the illustration. The owner simply detach the steering wheel on the right and attach it to the second steering column. That was “boon” for the British drivers who crossed the Channel Sea to the continental Europe.

Itslucien
Itslucien
13 days ago

If VW had the balls to bring back a Harlequin edition, maybe the ID3 would be an interesting car.

Also, I’ve been loving the Beyonce album too. I love that this and her last album were made to reclaim genres created by black artists.

Raymond
Raymond
13 days ago

Probably the same reason they are bad at naming Vehicles.

V8 Fairmont Longroof
V8 Fairmont Longroof
13 days ago

Still not sure if this one is real… https://www.volkswagen.com.au/en/roobadge.html

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
13 days ago

What VW should’ve done is make every panel of the 2024 Harlequin a different shade of white, grey, silver, and black. That’d at least make for a decently (if depressingly) funny jab at how much car colors have changed.

…but then release an actual colorful Harlequin successor darn it, don’t mock your fans for liking something fun from the past, that’s not cool. Heck, even if it’s only produced during the month of April, that’d generate a sales frenzy from collectors and be an overall win for enthusiasts.

For The Big Question – There have been plenty of good April Fools jokes by various brands over the years, but there’s an art to it that most brands have seemingly forgotten or aren’t willing to put any effort into anymore, and the collective public has largely lost their sense of humor.

ThinkGeek had the best April Fools joke products, but then that company got bought out and lost its soul. What made their products great were the tongue-in-cheek commercials and the fact that at least for a while, the products were actually real. The joke wasn’t that the product was fake, just that it was something obviously silly being treated as serious.

Things like Squeeze Bacon, the Bicycle Horn of Gondor, Chair Pants, Tauntaun sleeping bag (with lightsaber-shaped zipper!)… All clever silly ideas with great accompanying commercials.

Also way back in the early days of the internet IIRC Olive Garden put out an April 1st “documentary” about pasta plants and how they are harvested, including pictures of people harvesting spaghetti noodles and whatnot, which resulted in them getting calls from people inquiring about how to get a pasta plant for their garden.

April Fools Day used to be a lot more fun, back when people had a sense of humor and companies actually tried…

Last edited 13 days ago by Austin Vail
Laurence Rogers
Laurence Rogers
13 days ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

That ‘pasta plant’ joke was probably a homage to the BBC doing a doco like that back in the 60s for April Fools

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
13 days ago

Germans need at least one Italian in every meeting who is armed with a large mallet and some cigarettes

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
13 days ago

Or Adrian.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
13 days ago

Germans need at least one Italian in every meeting who is armed with a large mallet and some alcohol and cigarettes

Ben
Ben
13 days ago

Is there an example you can think of where a brand did a good joke on April 1st?

There was this one time when a couple of guys from a popular car website announced a new enthusiast site. That one turned out pretty well. 😉

EmotionalSupportBMW
EmotionalSupportBMW
13 days ago

This has the vibe of “we’re actually thinking about doing this, but we’ll saqy its a joke first. See how it goes. Then maybe swoop in and actually make it to much applause.” ala WOW and Pandaren. So, I look forward to the 10k non-luminescent harlequin edition announcement next month.

Citrus
Citrus
13 days ago

I feel like I’m on the outside looking in on this Beyonce album. I mostly didn’t enjoy it! I was kind of confused as to why it exists! The only song I liked was the one that turned classical for no clear reason! Ya Ya might be the worst thing she’s ever recorded!

And it’s getting all this acclaim and praise and I’m just going “what? Did we listen to the same album? Is my Spotify linked to another reality? I don’t get it!”

Anyway, in terms of the actual car stuff, instead of the what I’m listening to stuff, I hope the ChatGPT thing VW mentioned is also part of the joke.

Last edited 13 days ago by Citrus
Jason Smith
Jason Smith
13 days ago
Reply to  Citrus

So far I’ve only listened to Texas Hold ‘Em and Jolene. I thought Texas was meh, but I’m a kind of amused by Jolene. It’s like she’s saying “B!tch; Dolly was asking, I’m not Dolly. I’m telling you…” I also accept that country just isn’t my genre so it is what it is…

R53 Lifer
R53 Lifer
13 days ago

Sold my first & only VW last week. Good riddance!

Frankencamry
Frankencamry
13 days ago

The only April Fool’s that I found amusing enough to mention was the one-way ticket to the moon that Groupon put in with their regular offerings. They did a good job of mixing nonsense with standard Groupon features.

Clark B
Clark B
13 days ago

Apparently only 275 (or 264) Harlequin Golfs were sold stateside. When I started driving in the late 2000s, three of them were in my small suburban town. Two of the owners worked at the same Walgreens and always parked side by side. Always thought that was a pretty funny coincidence.

To echo what others have said, I feel like VW’s ads just highlight the interesting stuff they used to offer…which makes it all the more clear that they don’t have many compelling products these days. Especially in North America, where they seem to assume everyone wants a generic looking crossover/SUV. I know that’s what a lot of people are buying, but it feels depressingly phoned in.

The NSX Was Only in Development for 4 Years
The NSX Was Only in Development for 4 Years
13 days ago

I love that the automotive world is currently so bleak that it’s considered a prank to tell people you’re going to build a car in a fun color scheme.

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