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Volkswagen appeared to make official on Tuesday that it would rebrand its U.S. operations to "Voltswagen of America," but media outlets now are calling it an early April Fool's Day joke.

On Tuesday morning, to mark the automaker's commitment to electric vehicles, the company said it would rebrand to Voltswagen and include all exterior and interior signs at its VW properties and dealerships, apparently including its Chattanooga production plant.

But by Tuesday afternoon, various outlets were citing unnamed sources as saying the whole thing was a marketing stunt to draw attention to its EV plans. Sources told Reuters that the company on Wednesday is to announce that it's not serious about changing its name.

On Monday, USA Today and other outlets cited an announcement on Volkswagen of America's media site marking the name change. But the announcement was taken down from the site shortly thereafter and it was reported that it was mistakenly put up sooner than planned.

Earlier this month, the company launched its ID.4 electric SUV in the U.S. While the first units are made in Germany, the company is investing $800 million in a Chattanooga plant expansion to build the EVs in 2022.

According to the company's release on Tuesday, "Voltswagen" was to be an exterior badge on all its electric models, with gas vehicles sporting the VW emblem only.

Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen of America, said in the release that the company "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."

"The idea of a 'people's car' is the very fabric of our being," he said. "This name change signifies a nod to our past as the peoples' car and our firm belief that our future is in being the peoples' electric car."

On Tuesday, there were questions about what would happen to the names of various locations around Chattanooga, such as Volkswagen Drive at Enterprise South industrial park, where VW's plant is located, and to signs on the interstate around the factory.

Jennifer Flynn, a Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said Volkswagen Drive is a city road. If the name of the road is changed, then TDOT likely would eventually switch out the interstate signs to reflect that action, she said before the prank was revealed.

The German automaker has said it wants to sell 1 million EVs worldwide by 2025 and more than 70 electric models launched across the VW group brands by 2029.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com.

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