Automotive MMI: HDG Steel, LME Copper Post Big Price Increases

The Automotive Monthly Metals Index (MMI) posted no movement for our January reading, sticking at 97 after a four-point jump from November to December.
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Automotive Chart January 2018 FNL
The January MMI reading — which tracks the sector’s December performance — has risen significantly in the last 12 months. The sub-index posted an 82 for its January 2017 reading.
Within the basket of metals, U.S. HDG steel and LME copper had big months. For the former, the metal rose 5.5% during the period in question, while Dr. Copper jumped 6.4%.

U.S. Auto Sales

It was a down month for General Motors, which saw its sales drop 3.4% year-over-year in December 2017, with 308,112 units sold, according to sales data released Jan. 3 by Autodata Corp. GM thus closed the year with sales dropping 1.4% from its 2016 total.
Ford, meanwhile, saw its December sales rise 1.3% year-over-year, with 240,910 units sold in the month. As for the year-end numbers, Ford’s sales drop was less than GM’s, with a 0.9% dip compared to 2016 sales for the company.
Further down the sales list, Fiat Chrysler‘s December sales dropped 10.7% year-over-year and were down 8.2% for the year.
Fiat Chrysler wasn’t the only one to have a rough month. Toyota‘s December sales were down 8.3% year-over-year, while Honda‘s (7.0%) and Nissan‘s (9.5%) were also down.
Volkswagen dropped 5.4% in December compared with December 2016, but came out ahead in 2017, with sales rising 6.1% at year’s end compared with the previous year.
While Mitsubishi‘s absolute sales don’t come in near the top of the list, it had a good year in the U.S. market, selling 103,686 units in 2017 — up 7.7% from 2016 sales. In December, Mitsubishi’s sales rose 15.1% compared with December 2016.

Record Sales in 2017 for Tesla, But Struggles with Deliveries

Meanwhile, Tesla’s year was a two-sided tale.
As Business Insider UK reported, the electric vehicle (EV) maker hit record sales in 2017, but struggled with deliveries of its new Model 3.
The challenge for Tesla, of course, is transforming from a still relatively niche brand — catering to those who check the boxes of environmental mindfulness and being financially well off — to a mainstream automotive manufacturer capable of meeting demand with consistency.
It’s still unclear whether Tesla can do that, but EVs aren’t going away either way. Of course, Tesla isn’t the only player in the game, and competition in the EVs sector will only continue to grow in 2018 and beyond.

Eyes on China

A big year is ahead for automotive sales in China.
And it’s not just about this year — according to William C. Ford Jr., executive chairman of Ford, the future of EVs will be led by China.

“When I think of where E.V.s are going, it’s clearly the case that China will lead the world in E.V. development,” he told The New York Times.

Speaking of Ford, last month the automaker announced plans to collaborate with e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba. 

“Under the three-year agreement, both companies will jointly explore areas of cooperation that are re-shaping the automotive industry in China and around the world,” a Dec. 7 Ford news release states. “Ford will cooperate with Alibaba’s four business units in operation system, cloud computing, digital marketing and online retail respectively – namely AliOS, Alibaba Cloud, Alimama and Tmall – and jointly explore a variety of areas of cooperation including mobility services, connectivity, cloud computing, artificial intelligence and digital marketing.”
Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett also underscored the importance of China.
“China is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic digital markets, thriving on innovation with customers’ online and offline experiences converging rapidly,” he said in the release. “Collaborating with leading technology players builds on our vision for smart vehicles in a smart world to reimagine and revolutionize consumers’ mobility experiences.”
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Actual Metal Prices and Trends

U.S. HDG steel rose 5.5% to $886/short ton. Palladium, bucking historical trends, continues to outpace platinum. Palladium closed the month at $1,086/ounce, up 8.5% from the previous month. Meanwhile, platinum jumped $2 to $942/ounce.
LME copper jumped 6.4% to $7,227/metric ton, while U.S. shredded scrap steel fell 3.5% to $300/st.
Korean 5052 aluminum coil fell 10.7% to $3.43/kilogram.

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