Nissan technology breakthrough rattles platinum price

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Japanese car maker Nissan rattled the JSE on Friday by announcing a breakthrough in autocatalyst technology.

The platinum price dropped $30 after Nissan issued a press release saying it and Renault have developed a platinum catalyst that requires only half of the precious metals that existing technology needs.

After this announcement, Anglo Platinum tumbled 6,5percent to R999,99 per share while Impala Platinum fell by 5,9percent to R199. The automotive industry accounts for more than half of platinum sales.

Platinum mining companies regained some of their lost ground yesterday thanks to good results from Angloplat along with a closer reading of Nissan's statement, which said it and Renault would not be using the new generation autocatalysts for at least a year.

Despite the threat of newer technology allowing car companies to make autocatalysts with less precious metal, platinum prices are expected to stay high.

Growing environmental concerns are likely to cause many countries, including South Africa, to join Europe and the US in making autocatalysts mandatory.

"They will bring them [autocatalysts] out here to South Africa as far as I know," said Retail Motor Industry Organisation communications manager Louis Bles.

"The South African Bureau of Standards has told us that it will happen some time in the not-too-distant future."

The device ensures that exhaust emissions are clean because the catalyst, which comprises platinum, rhodium and palladium, turns harmful exhaust gases into non-toxic compounds such as nitrogen, water and carbon dioxide.