GENEVA -- Volkswagen hoped to wow visiting journalists at its Geneva auto show stand with a range of concepts and new models supposed to symbolize the “New Volkswagen,” only instead to become the unwilling target of a man reported to be British comedian Simon Brodkin.
Just seconds into Tuesday’s press conference, Volkswagen brand sales chief Juergen Stackmann was briefly interrupted when an individual dressed with what appeared to be an official Volkswagen gear jumped onto the stage in an unscripted surprise in front of a hundred or so reporters, a host of TV cameras, VW employees and other assorted guests.
While difficult to hear what the he said without a microphone, the man got down on the ground to begin inspecting a part of the car below the front bumper, pretending to warn Stackmann of a problem with the Up Beats city car the VW brand executive had just introduced.
“It doesn’t need repairs, it’s a perfect car, thank you very much,” the sales chief told him in English, adding then “it is okay.”
Instead he wanted to install a fake device on which he had written “Cheat Box” in reference to the defeat device that VW installed in its EA 189 diesels.
Neither he nor the technical team appeared to recognize at first that it was a prank. Stackmann’s microphone wasn't shut off, and it took a few moments before the man was escorted off the stage.
Spiegel reported that the man was Brodkin, who attracted global attention in the sports media when he interrupted a press conference to threw a bunch of fake money at Joseph "Sepp" Blatter, the former head of soccer’s global governing body FIFA that is under investigation for corruption.
When asked, Volkswagen officials could not confirm the identity of the man.
Stackmann, who previously ran the group’s Spanish unit Seat until November, later admitted that the company's emissions scandal meant “these kind of things can happen.”