Volkswagen's April Fools' Day joke backfires as fake new name 'Voltswagen' ridiculed

An April Fools' Day joke gone-wrong by car manufacturer Volkswagen has caused a stir and angered its fans.

The world's second-largest car manufacturer appeared to get too excited about April 1 and is now hastily retracting what one person called a "stupid idea".

Volkswagen has been around since the 1930s. It had controversial origins in Nazi Germany, and more recently a scandal involving the emissions of its diesel vehicles.

But a recent marketing push by Volkswagen's US subsidiary has caught the company on the back foot.

It announced its new name as Voltswagen, swapping the K out for a T to promote its commitment to electric vehicles.

It went viral, with some media outlets reporting it as true before it was acknowledged by Volkswagen as a media stunt.

The premature April Fools' Day joke did not go down well with consumers.

"Stupid idea," one wrote on Twitter.

"Anyone who was involved in this decision should be fired immediately," another said.

"Isn't it a little early to be lying to the American public again?" a third responded.

Here in New Zealand, Volkswagen dealers were just as surprised by the stunt.

"We learnt pretty much when everyone else did, but it's a good tongue-in-cheek message to a Volkswagen aspiration of bringing electrified mobility to all," says Greg Leet, Volkswagen general manager.

Volkswagen America says it will not be changing its name. The rebrand was designed to be an announcement in the spirit of April Fool's Day, but it slipped out a couple of days early.

Still, if the joke aimed to associate this car with electric propulsion in the minds of the people, then job done.