Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) has opened an investigation after a study found evidence that certain automakers may be profiting from slave labor in China.
The investigation is seeking information from eight manufacturers: Ford, General Motors, Honda Mercedes-Benz, Stellantis, Tesla, Toyota and Volkswagen as to whether they have used components that were made in factories using forced labor.
Stellantis also owns other car brands including Fiat, Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep.
“Unless due diligence confirms that components are not linked to forced labor, automakers cannot and should not sell cars in the United States that include components mined or produced in Xinjiang,” Wyden wrote in his letter.
“I recognize automobiles contain numerous parts sourced across the world and are subject to complex supply chains,” he continued. “However, this recognition cannot cause the United States to compromise its fundamental commitment to upholding human rights and U.S. law.”
The probe comes after a study conducted by Sheffield Hallam University in the United Kingdom found that automakers “had several supply chain exposures to the Uyghur Region" where the Chinese Communist Party has imprisoned over a million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps.
Several companies have already responded to the letter. Mercedes-Benz said they “expect compliance” from suppliers with its Principles of Social Responsibility and Human Rights, which requires "good working conditions as well as free choice of employment and environmental protection.”
Volkswagen meanwhile “found no evidence” of forced labor in its Xinjiang plant, adding that it was “not aware of any cases where employees … were or are in internment camps.” General Motors also responded that their terms and conditions for all suppliers “clearly state our prohibition against any use of child labor or any other form of forced or involuntary labor, abusive treatment of employees or corrupt business practices."
Other companies, including Tesla, Toyota and Ford have yet to respond.