December 2022

Driving Force

Automotive Supply Chains and Forced Labor in the Uyghur Region

What parts of your car were made by Uyghur forced laborers?

If you have bought a car in the last five years, some of its parts were likely made by Uyghurs and others forced to work in China. The Chinese government has deliberately shifted raw materials mining and processing and auto parts manufacturing into the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR or Uyghur Region), essentially making international supply chains captive to repressive programs and systematic forced labor. 

In a six-month investigation undertaken by Laura T. Murphy, Kendyl Salcito, Yalkun Uluyol, Mia Rabkin, and a team of anonymous researchers, analysis of publicly available documents revealed massive and expanding links between western car brands and Uyghur abuses, in everything from the hood decals and car frames to engine casings, interiors and electronics. 

We found 96 companies relevant to the auto industry mining, processing, or manufacturing in the Uyghur Region, including 38 with documented engagement in labor transfer programs. Over 100 international car and car parts manufacturers are at risk of sourcing from those companies. 

Consumers do not want cars made through exploitation. But a combination of China's systematic repression of the Uyghurs and opaque supply chains has allowed the automotive industry to become reliant on abusive suppliers. Every major car brand – including Volkswagen, BMW, Honda, Ford, GM, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Stellantis brands (like Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep), Tesla and NIO - is at high risk of sourcing from companies linked to abuses in the Uyghur region. Some are sourcing electronics from firms that are employing trafficked Uyghurs in factories in other parts of China. Some are unwittingly sourcing metals from the Uyghur region, because metal trading companies own equity in Xinjiang smelters. Some of the greatest exposure comes from the steel and aluminum used to make car frames, axels, bodies, engine casings, wheels and brakes. The world’s largest steel and aluminum producers have shifted into the Uyghur Region under Chinese government subsidies and incentives. But tires, interiors, windshields, batteries and practically every other major part are also implicated.

The auto industry cannot wait another day to trace their supply chains back to the raw materials. To do anything short of full tracing would be an enormous legal, ethical, and reputational risk.

Read the full report to understand how the Uyghur Region has been transformed into the world’s forced labor capital. The report contains extensive documentation of labor transfers, profiles of individual companies, and explanations of the development of relevant industries in the Uyghur Region.

learn how forced labor is linked to international markets:

Click "Supply Chain" to see a map of supply chain links to the Uyghur Region.

Search for car companies to see how they may be exposed to Uyghur forced labor.

Search by materials/parts to learn more about how these sectors — and the exploitation of the Uyghur people — are expanding in the Uyghur Region.