Volkswagen: Diesel Transplants Reveal Likely Culprit Behind Deiselgate: Car Microbiomes


By Morten Blaser

WOLFSBURG (AP) – Volkswagen held a press conference earlier today to present the results of their preliminary investigation into the “dieselgate” controversy.

Volkswagen’s CEO to be Hans Dieter Poetsch himself oversaw the press conference in Wolsfburg where the company presented the results of this investigation .

“We are determined to get to the core of the problems with the vehicle testing anomalies. We have begun testing many theories, including what we thought was the most likely explanation – that a rogue engineer in secret without the knowledge of anyone else wrote millions of lines of code to rig the smog tests” reported Poetsch. “Although this still seems plausible we have found another possible explanation, which has led us to hold this press conference today.”

Poetsch then turned over the lectern to Volkwagen’s Chief Scientist Josephine Candelsman.  She gave a six hour PowerPoint presentation on the investigation.  The key came right at the end:

“To test one possible explanation – we carried out a diesel transplant where we took the diesel from one vehicle that had failed the test and removed it and transferred it to another vehicle that had passed the test.”

Diesel transplant being carried out

The crowd was hushed when she reported the key finding:

“Amazingly, the recipient vehicle went from being lean, green and energy efficient to being an incredibly inefficient, pollution pumping vehicle. In other words, something in the diesel transferred the inefficiency from one vehicle to another.”


Gordon then turned over the presentation to Volkswagen’s Chief Microbiologist Jeferina Gordon:

We ran the diesel from the donor and recipient vehicles through a series of tests – especially an array of genomic analyses.  And what we found was that the microbes in the donor diesel were very different from those in the recipient.  This “dieselome” analysis also showed that after a diesel transplant from a sick vehicle, the microbes in the previously healthy, efficient vehicle become more like those from the sick donor.

Screenshot 2015-10-05 00.12.03


Gordon concluded by saying:

“It is clear to us that the problem is not actually in software but it is in the microbes in the vehicles.  Somehow the microbes in the vehicles that were failing the test were different than in the healthy vehicles.”

This reporter then asked Gordon if they had any explanation for what could have caused the difference.  She responded:

We are unsure of the causes.  But we believe the most likely explanation is excessive use of antimicrobial cleansers in the cleaning of vehicles, or possible the choice of air filtration systems that may have eliminated beneficial microbes from the vehicles. We are investigating.

Author: Jonathan Eisen

I am an evolutionary biologist and a Professor at U. C. Davis. (see my lab site here). My research focuses on the origin of novelty (how new processes and functions originate). To study this I focus on sequencing and analyzing genomes of organisms, especially microbes and using phylogenomic analysis

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