Update: 4/1/2009: Turns out IKEA isn't unrolling an eco-car after all.  And nope, IKEA's French spokespeople didn't release a massive "April Fools!" statement today either. According to Fast Company, IKEA's Leko is an online car-sharing service that will be introduced to 26 IKEA locations around France. Boo. Despite my disappointment that IKEA's French PR team didn't pull off the prank of a lifetime and that the company isn't actually releasing a flat-pack car, a car-sharing service is good news for the earth. My local IKEA has a Zipcar location but I've never used it ... I live five blocks away. 

On April 1, IKEA will be branching out into the automotive industry with the Leko, an environmentally friendly car “designed” by Christophe Grozs.  Or maybe not.

The presence of French website, Roulez-Leko, has birthed a serious viral guessing game among environmentalists, IKEA fans and conspiracy theory junkies with too much time on their hands. The release date of the Leko is April Fool’s Day but it’s also, as Fast Company points out, the first day of Sustainable Development Week in France. The shrouded-in-mystery website also carries the official logo of the WWF. Would the French arm of such an esteemed environmental organization become involved in such an elaborate prank?

I don’t know. I'm alternately too gullible and too skeptical — no gray area for me — to even form an opinion. But I do know this: As much as I love IKEA, if the company does indeed release an IKEA-branded car, I’d be reluctant to even ride as a passenger in one considering my track record with some of its furniture.

 The Guardian's Leo Hickman, my long-lost non-relative, digs further into the conspiracy:

Over at Fark.com one commenter called "TheYeti" — who admits they've been watching too much Lost — has been analysing the name "Christophe Grozs":

"Anagrams for Christophe Grozs contain the word scherzo and scherzi. Wiki: Scherzo (plural scherzi) is a piece of music or a movement, in a certain style, that forms part of a larger piece such as a symphony. The word "scherzo" means "joke" in Italian. Sometimes the word scherzando (joking) is used in musical notation to indicate that a passage should be executed in a playful manner."

It has also been noted that there is a rather handy Hungarian chess grandmaster called Peter Leko, although what this alludes to — other than game playing — I'm not too sure. My French and Swedish are both admittedly woeful, but maybe the car's name is internationalised shorthand for "L'Eko" ("Eko" being Swedish for "eco")? Or maybe it refers to Mr Eko, one of the many mysterious characters in Lost? (OK, I have to admit I've also been watching too much Lost.)

Elsewhere, some people have been scrutinising the website's HTML code for clues. At Digg a commenter called "tavallai" has spotted probably the most revealing clue of all:

It's a carshare scheme. Until they changed the HTML code and Flash filename, it referred to the movie as "covoiturage.swf" which is French for carpooling. Indeed, the Flash filename does now read as "siteEKO.swf". Is IKEA going to launch a carpooling initiative at its French stores on 1 April? Interesting, but not exactly up there with the launch of its very own (flat-packed?) car. 

If this campaign is indeed more fact than farce and IKEA eventually unrolls an environmentally friendly car stateside, would you buy one? Or are you like me, and sticking strictly to end tables, frozen meatballs and bath mats?

Whatever the case, IKEA really has launched a cool new line of eco-products in the form of solar-powered lighting options. Check 'em out. 

Via [The Guardian

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Introducing the IKEA Leko?
Is Swedish furnishings giant IKEA really releasing an eco-car on April 1? Or is the company pulling one colossal viral prank?