VW Burned Its Biggest Fans With This Bad April Fools’ Day Joke

What's the joke supposed to be? That Volkswagen doesn't make fun cars anymore?
Volkswagen, screenshots via Facebook

Volkswagen fans are a special breed. They’re maybe more committed than any other brand loyalists, clinging to their love for hot hatchbacks and German tuner culture as the company repeatedly plays the antagonist. VW has done so in the past by flaunting retro-inspired concepts that it will never build, constantly calling back to the history people love while building cars that depart from that heritage in all the wrong ways. To put it plainly, being a VW diehard has been rough for well over a decade, and the automaker just poured salt in the wound yet again.

VW posted a teaser to social media on March 28, hinting that it might officially revive the beloved, multi-colored Harlequin models from yesteryear. These were factory-built Polos and Golfs that featured rainbow-like paint schemes with each body panel wearing its own vibrant hue. Enthusiasts go crazy for them, and there are even registries that keep track of which examples still survive, where they are, and who owns them. It’s serious.

This was met with major applause. Facebook friends I made during my former days as a Dubber lit up with excitement, sharing the post far and wide. It looked like VW was finally going to build something cool from its past simply because it can.

Then, it turned out to be an April Fools’ Day joke. VW once again failed to read the room and put out this deflating announcement Monday morning under the guise of crappy humor:

Fans were expectedly disappointed. Levi Krohn, whose comment is at the top of the screenshot posted above, is a Harlequin owner himself—he’s on his second, actually. I reached out to Krohn to get his perspective as a VW guy, and the pain comes through in his response.

“I really think they kind of ‘shot themselves in the foot’ with this April Fools’ Day joke,” Krohn tells me. “VW is pretty known for its niche ideas and has a very strong following for coming up with and producing some wild concepts. I know a ton of people would love to see Harlequin re-done in a new style, paying homage to the original Polo and Golf versions.

“I think there’s so much history with this brand. We’ve seen other car makers bring back old ideas and fumble them pretty badly. This one from VW seemed like a no-brainer to be an absolute home run but unfortunately, it was just a joke. Sad to see, but hopefully they get the message that the loyal community of VW enthusiasts would love to see this one come to fruition!”

As a guy who’s currently completing a rotisserie restoration on a Mk3 Golf Harlequin with fresh paint, a refreshed interior with OG Harlequin fabric, Air Lift suspension, and a rebuilt 1.8-liter turbo four, Krohn is understandably let down by the news. And he’s not the only one.

I also spoke with Autrey McVicker, owner of BMP Tuning and a well-known figure in the VW community. He’s a big part of the German car aftermarket, and his own personal cars have been featured in Performance VW as well as Top Gear‘s online site. McVicker also happens to own a Polo Harlequin that he’ll “never sell.” Of the 140+ vehicles he’s had, he ranks it among his top five.

“For me, and I’m sure for a lot of other VW enthusiasts, we want VW to succeed at everything they do,” McVicker told me. “We are their largest group of cheerleaders and to see them toy with that core group’s emotions over re-releasing one of their more iconic concepts just breaks our hearts.

“We love what they have offered over the years, and we are dying inside to see them do something exciting again just because they can. There is no reason why the largest automaker on the planet is unable to do unique things or reimagined things ‘just because.’ I understand that a lot of people won’t think its that deep, most have no idea what a Harlequin is or its heritage, and that is OK too… but what VW doesn’t seem to understand is, the poor kids who couldn’t afford it when it came out in the ’90s or who were too young to drive at the time, are all grown up now and ready to spend money on things that excite them or are unique. They took a very good opportunity to farm their base and squandered it over a joke that no one thinks is funny outside of their marketing department.”

You might remember that a couple of years back, VW told another April Fools’ joke that nobody else found funny. It pretended to change its name to Voltswagen on March 29 and so many people fell for it, including legit publications. That’s probably because even the automaker’s PR department refused to say whether it was a gag or not.

This Harlequin drama cuts even deeper because it’s toying with the brand’s core fanbase. They’re just people who want to see VW build cool things and, very possibly, would pay real money for them. Looks like the joke’s on them for hoping the company was finally listening this time.

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