Automotive MMI Flat as Sales Continue to Plateau

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Major automakers posted lower September U.S. sales this week despite big consumer discounts, as pickup truck volumes fell for market leaders General Motors and Ford.

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With the top six U.S. market leaders reporting, deliveries fell 0.6% from last year, but sales were still strong at 17.8 million vehicles on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis.

GM, the top-seller in the U.S., posted a 0.6% decline. Ford reported an 8% drop, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles was down 1%.


The drops for individual automakers weren’t as steep as last month‘s and our Automotive MMI held its value from September despite the drop-off in end-use sales. Automakers are still on track to sell the second-most cars and trucks in any year in U.S. history, but evidence that sales plateaued in August is affirmed in the September numbers. There’s little chance that 2015’s sales record will fall in December.

Investors Abandoning PGMs?

More troubling for automotive metals is this week’s fall in investment demand for the catalyst metals, platinum and palladium. People are not snapping up the incentives that automakers are offering and inventory is, naturally, piling up. The average industry incentive increased by more than $400 in September compared with the same month a year ago, according to executives at two automakers.

The increasing cost of PGMs was keeping the Automotive MMI in positive territory for most of the first three quarters of 2015. The pullback in precious metals prices could pull the rug out from under automotive, too. The catalyst metals never took off for investors the way that gold did and that’s bad news for their prices as supply was never really in much doubt without more investor interest.

Steel and aluminum both posted increases this month, but face stronger headwinds as the year winds down. Construction, another market that uses similar metals and products, saw new home sales, which usually correlate closely to pickup truck sales, fall 7.6% in August, the Commerce Department said on Monday.

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The focus of automotive buyers, it seems, should be on how long this plateau will last and how quickly it might turn into a slope.

Actual Automotive Metal Prices

U.S. platinum bars fell to $1,025 per ounce this month, down from $1,147/ounce in September, a precipitous drop of 11%. London Metal Exchange copper, however, climbed to $4,846 a metric ton this month, up from $4,617 in September, a 5% increase. U.S. Shredded scrap fell to $219 a short ton this month from $238/st in September, an 8% drop.

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