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Chris Bryant

In the Meme-Stock Era, Even Bad Voltswagen Jokes Are Worth Billions

You can’t blame VW for wanting a little bit of Tesla’s glamour. But its April Fools’ Day calamity shows the dangers of trying to be cool and funny. 

Have you heard the one about the electric German car?

Have you heard the one about the electric German car?

Photographer: Ronny Hartmann/Getty Images

In a January column about how Elon Musk is basically in charge of the stock market now, I noted how others would try to copy the Tesla Inc. boss’s success in co-opting retail investors. I had one caveat, though: “Charming young Redditors in an authentic way isn’t an easy act to pull off.”   

This week Volkswagen AG provided a lesson in just how difficult it is to “be Elon.” VW’s U.S. arm claimed it was changing its corporate name to “Voltswagen,” denied it was an April Fools’ Day joke, then admitted that, um, it was in fact an April Fools’ Day joke gone wrong.