Volkswagen’s annual shareholder meeting this week was disrupted by activists protesting about its factory in Xinjiang, western China, Reuters reports.

Approximately ten activists entered the meeting, with one throwing cake towards Wolfgang Porsche, chairman of Porsche SE, and the company’s supervisory board chairman Hans Dieter Pötsch.

It is understood the activists called for Volkswagen to conduct an external audit of its plant in Xinjiang. There are numerous concerns from the United Nations and Amnesty International over alleged “serious” human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslims in this region.

Volkswagen has defended its Xinjiang plant and has consistently stated it has found no evidence of human rights violations at its plant.

In a visit to the plant earlier this year, Ralf Brandstätter, chief of VW’s China’s operations said: “Of course we are aware of the critical reports, we take this very seriously.”

“But we have no evidence of human rights violations at this plant — that has not changed after my visit.”

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

Another concern raised during the shareholders’ meeting was the company’s share price, which has continued to slump.

Shareholders voiced frustrations and fears that Volkswagen was lagging behind domestic competitors in China’s EV market.

Addressing investors, Volkswagen’s CEO Dr Oliver Blume said: “The pace set by the Chinese market when it comes to electrification and digitalisation is impressive.” The company’s strategy to tackle competition was to tailor its products “even closer to Chinese customers.”

Earlier this year, Chinese automaker BYD overtook Volkswagen as China’s bestselling car brand. According to GlobalData, in Q1 2023, BYD sold 523,755 light vehicles compared to the Volkswagen brand’s 443,322 units. In the month of March, BYD sales were up 88% while VW’s were down by 4%.

China is one of Volkswagen’s key markets, which accounts for over a third of its new car sales. It was the biggest foreign investor in China in 2021, with 40 manufacturing plants in the country.