Carmakers Imported Parts Made With China’s Forced Labor: Senate Report

Bill Pan
By Bill Pan
May 20, 2024Business News

BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, and Volkswagen AG used parts made by a Chinese supplier sanctioned for using forced labor, a report detailing findings of a probe by the Senate suggests.

The probe, launched by the Senate Finance Committee two years ago, discovered that some of these parts have been used in vehicles imported to the United States even after automakers assured the committee that they have “robust compliance programs” to prevent components made with forced labor from entering their supply chains.

According to the report released on Monday, the three automakers bought LAN transformers—a module that connects a vehicle’s electronics—manufactured by Sichuan Jingweida Technology Group (JWD), a Chinese company flagged for relying on the forced labor of Uyghur Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang.

Those parts in question, the 108-page report said, were sourced via California-based Bourns Inc., which in turn provided them to Michigan-based Lear Corp., a direct supplier for BMW and Jaguar Land Rover. In January, Bourns notified Lear that those LAN transformers were produced by JWD, and thus prohibited in vehicles being shipped to the United States.

On January 11, Lear informed BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Volvo, and Volkswagen of the banned components. Despite that notification, in April 2024, after the Senate committee explicitly asked whether they ever “directly or indirectly sourced parts from JWD.” Jaguar Land Rover claimed to be unaware of its links to the sanctioned manufacturer, and BMW told the committee that JWD was not on its “supplier list.”

“In fact, BMW continued to import products manufactured by JWD until at least April 2024 and appears to have stopped only after the committee repeatedly asked detailed questions to Lear and Lear’s OEM customers, including BMW, about their relationship with JWD,” the report read. “BMW has informed the Committee that it voluntarily disclosed to CBP that shipments of vehicles and spare parts that entered the US market after December 11, 2023, included a LAN transformer produced by JWD.”

Following repeated questioning from the committee, “BMW disclosed that at least 8,000 Mini Cooper cars containing JWD components had been shipped to the United States.”

In January, Volkswagen voluntarily disclosed to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that a shipment of their automobiles destined for the United States contained a JWD-made part. The company subsequently replaced the parts before the cars entered the country.

Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who led the probe, said the failure of two major automakers to discover that a company identified as using forced labor was one of their tier-3 suppliers—even after being informed of this fact in writing by a tier-1 supplier—suggests that their self-policing is “clearly not doing the job.”

“Automakers are sticking their heads in the sand and then swearing they can’t find any forced labor in their supply chains,” the senator said in a statement announcing the findings. “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.”

To tackle the issue, the Senate committee urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the CBP to step up the enforcement of the forced labor ban in auto supply chains.

A spokesperson for BMW told The Epoch Times in an email: “We were informed by one of our direct suppliers that a sub-supplier in its supply chain was on the UFLPA Entity List. This sub-supplier provided a subcomponent for a larger electronic unit. BMW Group has taken steps to halt the importation of affected products and will be conducting a service action with customer and dealer notification for affected motor vehicles.”

In December 2021, the Congress overwhelmingly approved the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), prohibiting the import of products made with forced labor in Xinjiang, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime continues engaging in human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities. The law came about a year after the CBP banned cotton and tomato imports from Xinjiang.

A Jaguar Land Rover spokesperson said that the tier-3 subcomponent referenced in the Senate Finance Committee’s report was used in a prior generation of technology and is not in Jaguar Land Rover vehicles currently being sold.

“Once our compliance team were informed that a Tier Three subcomponent manufacturer was on the UFLPA Entity List, JLR immediately stopped all shipments of the two affected aftermarket service parts and all existing inventory containing the affected subcomponent globally were quarantined for destruction,” the spokesperson said.

“JLR takes human rights and forced labor issues seriously and has an active ongoing programme of human rights protection and anti-slavery measures.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for Volkswagen said the company “takes allegations of human rights violations very seriously” and is committed to preventing the use of forced labor in our supply chain.

“With regard to the supply chain issue referenced in the Committee Report, we acted as quickly and responsibly as possible to replace the part and comply with the UFLPA,” the spokesperson told The Epoch Times.

Both the Trump and Biden administrations have described the human rights violations taking place in Xinjiang as genocide, a characterization the CCP regime vehemently denies.

From The Epoch Times

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