April Fools' Day: best car company efforts from the years gone by

We round-up the best April Fools' Day tricks by car companies over the past few years

Alfa Romeo filter windows

Alfa Romeo’s jape for 2021 took a swipe at frustrated holidaymakers. The company claims to have launched a new type of electrochromic glass for the Stelvio, called “Nuova Luce,” which it says can make the outside world look like an attractive Italian vista.

Supposedly, the technology will be fitted as standard on all new Stelvios from the 1 April and gives buyers a choice of filters, which can “replace the flat light and dreary weather they are likely experiencing with one of the five vibrant, life-affirming ambiances.”

Alfa Romeo’s head of Ambient Lighting, Phil Terre, said: “Nuova Luce is an evolution of the widely available auto-dimming mirror technology. 

“We know people up and down the country are desperate to go overseas. We’re hopeful that while it’s no replacement for the real thing, this world-first technology brings a taste of Italy to the UK for Stelvio drivers.”

Porsche’s Patina Paint to Sample

Porsche made a nod to its heritage fleet this year, expanding its Paint to Sample service with a claimed new patina option, previewed in a video on the brand’s YouTube channel.

The idea is that buyers provide a sample of the rusty, flaking vehicle they like the best and Porsche will replicate it on one of their brand new cars, using its newly developed oxidising paint process.

Boris Apenbrink, head of Porsche’s Exclusive Manufaktur Vehicles department said: “Our heritage is a big inspiration for new product offerings, especially with paint jobs. It has always been a very important part of the Porsche identification.

“Up to now, we have around 105 colours available for the 911 and the 718. But, we can bring in even more authenticy now with new paint technology. So, we use oxidation processes for the paint and get a very authentic – “rusty,” you might call it – look.

“I would definitely call it the future of individualisation but, as always with Porsche, inspired by the past.”

Dacia DUSTAR: the world’s first affordable space programme

Dacia, the purveyor of famously affordable cars, promised to launch the world’s only affordable space programme this year.

The project’s maiden voyage, which involved launching a Dacia Duster into space, was scheduled for 9am on the morning of 1 April 2021. The event was also streamed live, just in case there were any doubts about its credibility.

Noel Armstrong, Dacia’s recently appointed head of the DUSTAR project, said: “We are all about delivering best-value-for-money without compromising on quality. We have achieved this on Earth, so launching a car into space is the obvious next step! 

“Going to space is a dream for many, but we want to show that you can make a little go a long way and make it a reality. I’m over the moon that we begin by sending our rugged and robust Dacia Duster to seriously new heights today.”

Volkswagen’s American name-change

You could say that this one went slightly awry. A couple of days before April Fools Day 2021, Volkswagen 'accidentally' released a story on its website which claimed that the German firm planned to change all of its American branding to ‘Voltswagen’, supposedly to signal the company-wide shift to electric power.

Volkswagen’s American press office was subsequently inundated with questions from US journalists and those journalists were told categorically that there was no April Fools tomfoolery at play. The firm’s PR people simply played along and told everyone it was true.

The leaked story was followed up by a full press release quoting senior VW executives on the thinking behind the Voltswagen rebrand. Volkswagen's US website was edited with some references to Volkswagen changed to Voltswagen and its social media accounts were renamed. It seemed that they really were going to do it. Until suddenly they weren't. 

Much to the consternation of the international media outlets who'd run the story, a day later before April Fools Day 2021 had even landed, the big back-track began. Sources within Volkswagen changed their tune, confirming the hoax and Voltswagen was off the table. Classic April Fools Day effort from VW's American arm or public relations catastrophe? You be the judge...     

Audi b-tron honey-powered car

Audi’s 2019 April Fools’ Day joke played on the current market shift towards zero- and low-emissions motoring, with the company claiming it had built a honey-powered car called the b-tron. Features include a hexagonal fuel-cap and an on-board toaster.

Imker Honig, head of Audi’s Komplett Geschminkt (German for “made up entirely”) skunkworks said the project wasn’t without its problems, though. He reported: “early prototypes tended to attract scores of bees, typically around the hexagonal fuel cap. One tester was swarmed by a hive that had settled in the glove compartment.”

MG’s road-painting tyres

For April Fools’ Day 2019, MG announced a set of road-colouring tyres. Supposedly, the tyres are coated in a water-soluble dye which covers the road as the car drives, before fading away shortly afterwards.

MG’s Professor of Pigment, Dr Gull Abel, also confirmed that customers would be able to change the colour of the dye through a new mobile tyre-fitting service. Safety hasn’t been compromised either, with the firm claiming its new range of tyres have passed the industry safety tests with “flying colours.” 

Fiat Panda Hawaii edition

Fiat has announced its falsified intentions to build a special edition Panda commemorating the tenth anniversary of the TV show ‘The Inbetweeners.’

Designed as a tribute to the battered old Fiat Cinquecento Hawaii Edition from the series, its spec list includes a 38bhp “overhead valved” 899cc petrol engine, an M-reg license plate, a pre-dented red passenger door, black plastic bumpers and a radio-cassette player in place of the standard colour screen DAB radio.

To further sweeten the deal, Fiat also claims to offer free insurance to all first-time teenage buyers and four free tickets to Thorpe park, with queue-jump passes for the front seats of Nemesis Inferno.

However, some references to the show give the game away a little too much, such as claiming the Hawaii Panda comes with an “anti-squirrel-collision” system and “mild amphibious qualities” to protect the car should it end up in a pond. 

Skoda’s customisable puddle lights

Skoda’s annual joke takes a punt at the recent market trend for car personalisation, with a claimed set of customisable puddle lights. Dubbed the ‘ProjectaPal’ LED reminder, the system supposedly allows owners to display images and personalised messages on the road when the doors are opened.

Skoda’s fictional Head of Infotainment Development, Dr. Ivor Tüchskreen, explained the system, claiming: “Every week, I forget to put my bins out for recycling. Before ProjectaPal, I would tape a note on the interior door handle, but it would always fall off. Then I thought ‘why don’t I ask my Karoq to remind me instead?’ – and that’s when we started designing ProjectaPal.”

For less forgetful owners, ProjectaPal can also display any image from a linked smartphone. Tüchskreen continued, stating: “Maybe you are missing someone you really love like your dog, cat, your favourite football player or your wife. With ProjectaPal, you can see their faces the moment you open the door.”

Aston Martin's Project Sparta monster truck

You might think that a brand like Aston Martin, that trades on its heritage and so-cool-it-hurts image, would be above indulging in traditional April 1st tomfoolery. And you’d be wrong. 

The brand’s April 1st 2018 press release announced Project Sparta, a new race programme to run alongside Aston’s current F1 and FIA World Endurance Championship efforts. That’s right, Aston Martin would have us believe that it’s entering a V12, 1,100bhp monster truck in the US-based Monster Jam series. 

Engineered alongside the new Aston Martin Varekai SUV, the big-wheeled beast is designed to do battle with the giants of the monster truck world, including Grave Digger, Big Kahuna, Ice Cream Man and Jailbird, and it’ll enter competition in the 2019 season. Or maybe it won’t. 

Honda Concept CR-V Roadster

Honda has really gone to town for April Fools Day 2018, returning with an angle grinder and whipping the roof off its CR-V mid-sized SUV. A little Photoshop trickery would certainly have sufficed but it’s good to know that the resulting Honda Concept CR-V Roadster does actually exist in the real world.

Honda claims that the SUV Roadster is designed “purely for sunnier climates and therefore completely useless for the two-day British summer which traditionally occurs in May”. It also provided a quote from one 'Eipurirufūru', who is said to be the company’s 'Future Opportunity Occupational Lead'. The real sting in the tail of the Honda Concept CR-V Roadster story, though, is that what Honda apparently sees as an April Fools joke, Land Rover actually put into series production in the shape of the Range Rover Evoque Convertible. Ouch. 

SEAT’s Arona Copper Edition

SEAT has announced “the first car ever that truly does cost pence to run” for April Fools 2018. The SEAT Arona Copper Edition plays on the mooted withdrawal of copper coins from circulation in the UK and features a coin slot alongside the gear lever where 1p and 2p coins can be inserted to power the car by means not fully explained in the short release.

Rhea Sonible-Price, product manager at SEAT UK commented: “Research shows that some of our customers are understandably brassed off that copper coins could disappear forever, but here at SEAT we’re convinced there’s a new lease of life to be had for these little bits of history as part of the workings of a cutting-edge, modern car.

Skoda noise-cancelling headrest

Skoda teased stressed parents for April Fools Day 2018 with the seductive idea of a new way to drown out unwanted noise coming from younger car occupants. The new noise-cancelling headrest for the Skoda Karoq apparently features QuarrelKancel™ technology and works to drown-out backseat bickering leaving the driver in a state of zen-like calm. 

Skoda says the headrest technology is the work of its Chief of Family Relations, Professor Si Lence and Special Projects leader, Dr April Fürst, “We tested 1,000 families over 10,000 miles and identified that 80dB, the sound equivalent of a vacuum cleaner, is the pitch most unbearable for parents,” said Dr Fürst.

McLaren’s Feather Wrap

The wrap industry - not to be confused with the hip hop one - is known for creating ever more ludicrous designs to adorn the population of supercars across the world. However, McLaren took that practice to a whole new level with its April Fools’ Day 2017 contribution.

The firm announced Feather Wrap - consisting of 10,000 artificial, carbon-veined feathers - as an option on the McLaren 570GT model. Taking over 300 hours to assemble by hand, the British car maker claimed that the unusual feature would provide aerodynamic benefits and add just 2.5kg to the weight of the car.

To us it looks like the British supercar has been in collision with a particularly plump pheasant.

Hyundai’s Click to Fly car deliveries

Hyundai’s 2017 April Fools effort played on the very real trend for the car buying process moving online. The Korean firm touted its Click to Fly scheme under which customers can supposedly purchase their vehicle on Hyundai’s Click to Buy website and have it delivered in under two hours by a team of airborne ‘Hy-drones’.

The drones, which Hyundai claims are powered by its Hydrogen Fuel Cell technology, arrive through the sky with your new Hyundai slung underneath in a big box and plonk it onto your driveway before lowering the key into your hand. The manufacturer says it only needs two drones for an i10 city car delivery but four for the extra bulk of a Santa Fe SUV. If that doesn’t set your April Fools antennae twitching, the accompanying video probably will.

MINI's Hipster hatch

MINI chose to target its 2016 April Fools effort at the growing ‘hipster’ market, offering us the “world premier of the MINI Hipster hatch”. The spoof car features ‘Instagram filtered windows’, ‘a twin-deck cassette player’ and ‘stonewash denim upholstery’ - all features that any self-respecting Hoxton trendster would love. MINI also claims a fixed-gear drivetrain for the car to match the hipster’s retro cool bicycle of choice and offered comments from the “senior external product launch experience curator at MINI UK”, Ivana Newcarr.

Honda's emoji numberplate

With emoji symbols now infiltrating all aspects of modern life, Honda couldn’t resist weighing-in with the Emoji numberplate. Here smilie faces and other nonsensical pics replace traditional letters and numbers.  Honda claimed the plates are a response to demand from younger buyers and that “talks are planned with the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency in an endeavour to exclusively launch the new plates in early 2017”. Good luck in that meeting guys.

MG's invisible car

MG thought it'd have a crack at an April Fool's joke and used that old chestnut of revealing its first invisible car. With help from Professor C. Thrue and Chief Designer Avril F'ouil, the brand expressed its excitement about its new car. 

Of course, with it being invisible, there were reported development issues. Matthew Cheyne, Head of Sales and Marketing at MG, said: "At first we had some trouble with the cars, as people kept walking into them or we’d misplace them on the site. As soon as we placed the iconic MG badge on the front of them, using non-invisible materials, we were able to find them much more easily."

He went on to add that parking tickets would be a thing of the past, because traffic wardens wouldn't be able to see it. Of course, neither would any cars driving in that think the bay is empty...

The Jeep Wrangler Grille Grill

Like Porsche, Jeep shared its April Fools via social media channels. The Wrangler Grille Grill is, well, shaped like the grille from a Wrangler!

In that most manly of pursuits, the barbeque, it is obvious that Jeep wants to get in on the culinary delights of cooking a slab of beef to within an inch of its life. The grill would be perfect for those looking to take advantage of the Wrangler's rugged appeal and could be great for a Jeep-themed camping trip in Colorado, the Amazon rainforest or the Lake District!

Nissan's GYM button

Nissan announced a new way for drivers of its cars to fight the flab when behind the wheel for April Fools' Day 2015. The GYM button disables labour saving gadgets like power steering and increases the force required to operate the pedals and gearbox. Suddenly your drive to work becomes a blood vessel bursting workout capable of burning an average of 1,415 calories a day.  

Vauxhall's mobile kebab shop taxi

Vauxhall announced a breakthrough for the evening entertainment industry for April Fools' 2015. The Taxi Kebabi is a 9-seater Vauxhall Vivaro Combi taxi with built-in kebab shop. The van comes with bold 'Abra Kebabra' exterior decals and a couple of chicken doner Kebabs rotating gentley in the boot. 

As well as the two gas-fired spit rotisserie grills, the modified Vivaro is said to have salad bowls integrated into the arm rests, chilli dispensers and of course a tasty selection of sauces.  The quote for this one came from taxi driver Jason Donervan  "With Vivaro's class-leading whole life costs, this incredible vehicle offers us hard-pushed drivers another valuable revenue stream that could ultimately see taxi fares being slashed."

Mazda's four-seater MX-5

The nippy little Mazda MX-5 can now be enjoyed by the whole family - thanks to Mazda's introduction of the four-seater version on April Fool's Day 2014. That extra-long wheelbase and extra weight shouldn't affect handling too much, right?

MINI’s Cooper T

You’ve heard of the Cooper S and Cooper D MINI models, well MINI asked you to suspend disbelief to accommodate a Cooper T on April Fools’ Day 2014. It sounds plausible until you learned the car supposedly runs on tea.

Capable of covering 40 miles on a single cup and equipped with Dunk Avoidance Technology to prevent unscrupulous individuals from lowering biscuits into the fuel tank, the Cooper T was a tough one to swallow. 

SEAT’s electro reflective’ exterior panel finish

SEAT came over all James Bond with its 2008 April Fools’ Day joke. A press release revealed the manufacturer had developed a groundbreaking ‘electro reflective’ exterior panel finish that could adapt to mimic the car’s surroundings. There was no word on how owners would find their car again once they’d parked it.

Hyundai’s i10 Popemobile

Hyundai treated us to an unlikely modified version of its i10 city car in on April Fools Day 2009. The premise behind the i10 Special Project Popemobile was that the the head of the catholic church wanted to get around in something more environmentally-friendly than the usual armourplated SUVs.

The game was given away by Hyundai’s press release small print that claimed, “all leather from the seat facings was replaced with parts of tapestry woven by monks from the Indian city of Utta Bullacs”.

BMW’s M3 pick-up truck

When is an April Fools’ Day joke not an April Fools Day joke, When it’s a BMW M3 pick-up.

BMW lifted the lid on this 414bhp V8 ute based on its M3 Convertible in 2011, proudly announcing that there was enough space in the back for 20 golf bags!

We sniggered but it turned out that the M3 pick-up was real. It was subsequently spotted lapping the Nurburgring and, weighting 50kg less than an M3 Coupe, is said to be capable of 186mph.

Kia KEE_Wii kills the steering wheel

In 2008 Kia looked to capitalise on the success of the Nintendo Wii games console with a KEE_Wii concept car April Fools’ Day joke.

Kia said that the car had a portable controller instead of the conventional steering wheel and pedals. This enabled it to be driven from any of its four seats, even by the kids in the back. “It seems obvious to us that if children as young as eight can drift, rally and race their way to multiple world championships on a games console, then this new driving system will be simple enough for anyone to use,” said the blurb.

Coming from the manufacturer responsible for the cee’d and the pro_cee’d, nobody batted an eyelid at the KEE_Wii’s silly name but five-year-olds driving cars was a step too far.

Kia’s Aero-Soul

Kia really pushed the Photoshop boat out in generating the images of its Aero-Soul April Fools' gag in 2009. The car was said to be modified with a new ‘Air Propulsion and Retardation Installation Line system’ that harness the power of the wind to save fuel.

SEAT Aero-Tonto wind turbine

SEAT probably put a lot of thought into its wind turbine-equipped Ibiza Ecomotive April Fools' effort in 2009 but little did they know that it was destined to be comprehensively overshadowed by Kia’s spectacular Aero-Soul.

The Aero-Tonto system is based on a similar false premise of harnessing the power of the wind to boost efficiency. SEAT claimed that the turbine on the roof generated enough energy to power the car’s high beam headlights at 24 mph. You wouldn’t want to take it through a car wash though.

Auto Windscreens prescription windscreen

It’s not just car manufacturers that like an April Fools’ Day prank. In 2010 Auto Windscreens revisited an old joke by announcing the world’s first prescription windscreen. There was even a mocked-up video and publicity shot featuring British Touring Car Driver Tom Chilton.

Tailored to the individual’s ophthalmic prescription the windscreen was created to eliminate the need for drivers to wear their glasses or contact lenses at the wheel. The Auto Windscreens press release even went so far as to claim that each screen came with a giant cleaning cloth.

BMW’s Magnetic Tow Technology

Another classic BMW April Fools joke was the 2009 announcement of Magnetic Tow Technology.

The system purported to use a magnetic field that would allow BMW drivers to creep up behind other traffic and latch on for a fuel-saving ride. “For once, we’re happy to be behind the competition,” said the tagline on BMW’s spoof ad.

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