BMW Is Among the Automakers Under Fire for Ties to Forced Labor

Volkswagen and Jaguar Land Rover are also cited in the report

BMW Tower
BMW Tower, Munich.
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In 2022, Sheffield Hallam University’s Forced Labour Lab announced an unsettling set of findings about some of the globe’s most prominent automakers and the origins of certain components of their vehicles. That dovetailed with the release the same year of a U.N. report on forced labor in Xinjiang, a region in northwestern China. In the U.S., that prompted the Senate Finance Committee to begin its own investigation, and today it released a blockbuster report on automakers whose vehicles contain parts made using forced labor.

At The New York Times, Ana Swanson and Jack Ewing have a good rundown of the report’s findings — and the circumstances by which BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen are connected to forced labor in China. Earlier this year, Volkswagen revealed to U.S. Customs and Border Protection that some of their vehicles intended for sale in the U.S. contained parts made by JWD, a company that’s been flagged on the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act Entity List.

According to the Times’ reporting, VW took steps to replace the part before the vehicles were sold in the United States. Jaguar Land Rover and BMW were also notified but continued to sell vehicles made with JWD components for several more months. “The details of these disclosures heightened the Chairman’s concerns that automakers do not possess adequate visibility and compliance procedures to keep their supply chains free of forced labor,” the committee stated in its report.

The JWD-manufactured parts aren’t the only ethical issues brought up in the committee’s reports. There’s also the matter of an SAIC Volkswagen facility in Xinjiang, which represents a joint venture between Volkswagen and the Chinese automaker SAIC. The report notes that “[t]races of several forced labor camps” are located near the facility in question. Volkswagen told the committee that they did not think forced labor was used there, but also revealed “that although SAIC Volkswagen is a joint venture, it does not control either SAIC Volkswagen or SAIC-Volkswagen Xinjiang.”

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“[A]utomakers are sticking their heads in the sand and then swearing they can’t find any forced labor in their supply chains,” Senator Ron Wyden, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, told the Times in a statement. He went on to criticize automakers’ efforts to crack down on forced labor on their own. “Automakers’ self-policing is clearly not doing the job,” he said.

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