Investigation finds BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Volkswagen bought parts linked to forced labor in China

Multiple major automakers relied on forced labor in China for some purchased parts, a Senate Finance Committee investigation found Monday.

BMW, Jaguar Land Rover and Volkswagen purchased parts that were flagged by the U.S. government for links to forced labor camps in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang, home to the Uighur minority group of Muslims.

The two-year investigation also found that BMW and Jaguar Land Rover continued importing the flagged parts as recently as last month, even after they were informed of the forced labor, the report states.

“Automakers are sticking their heads in the sand and then swearing they can’t find any forced labor in their supply chains,” Finance Chair Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said in a statement. “Somehow, the Finance Committee’s oversight staff uncovered what multi-billion-dollar companies apparently could not: that BMW imported cars, Jaguar Land Rover imported parts, and VW AG manufactured cars that all included components made by a supplier banned for using Uyghur forced labor.” 

“Automakers’ self-policing is clearly not doing the job,” he continued. “I’m calling on Customs and Border Protection to take a number of specific steps to supercharge enforcement and crack down on companies that fuel the shameful use of forced labor in China.”

The report claims that BMW imported about 8,000 Mini cars to the U.S. that contained a flagged part, after a Chinese manufacturer was added to a forced labor list in December. 

The investigation centered on the LAN controller, part of a car’s electronics systems, manufactured by Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group, also known as JWD. The automakers did not buy the parts directly from JWD, but instead from international parts supplier Lear Corp.

JWD was added to U.S. forced labor manufacturing lists in December over allegations that the company worked with the Xinjiang government to recruit, transport or receive forced labor.

Lear notified the three automakers of the flagged part in January, the report states, with Volkswagen halting imports and working to replace the part in vehicles already en route to the U.S.

The report states that BMW did not do the same, instead continuing to import the MINI vehicles until at least last month, stopping only after the committee repeatedly questioned the company. 

“The BMW Group has strict standards and policies regarding employment practices, human rights, and working conditions, which all our direct suppliers must follow,” the company said in a statement to The Hill.

Jaguar Land Rover similarly continued importing affected parts, halting only last month, but told the Finance Committee that its American subsidiary was not made aware that the part was flagged.

“JLR takes human rights and forced labor issues seriously and has an active ongoing program of human rights protection and antislavery measures,” the British automaker said in a statement to The Hill.

The committee’s report recommends that the Department of Homeland Security’s forced labor taskforce speed up its work on forced labor in the Xinjiang region of China, encourage better information-sharing for the enforcement of laws banning flagged parts and provide more clear directions on required audits to ensure that American companies follow the law.

Updated on May 21 at 9:09 a.m. EDT

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