LONDON (Commodity Online): With a series of auto makers announcing good sales and profits this week, palladium prices soared to new heights on Friday.

Palladium settled up $22.50, or 4.8 percent, at $491.20 an ounce. Palladium and platinum, which also is higher, are used in making catalytic converters for cars.

The good news for palladium and platinum started from Nissan, which veered back into the black in its latest quarter as global car sales rebounded while its smaller rival Mitsubishi Motors Corp. narrowed its quarterly loss.

Yokohama-based Nissan, maker of the Leaf electric vehicle and the March compact, said its profit was 106.6 billion yen ($1.2 billion) for the April-June quarter, the first of its fiscal year. It lost 16.5 billion yen the same period the previous year. Quarterly sales surged 35.3 percent to 2.050 trillion yen ($23.6 billion).

Other Japanese automakers are also expected to report rosier results as global sales recover, especially in new markets such as China and India. Strong China sales helped Mitsubishi narrow its loss for the April-June quarter to 11.8 billion yen ($135.6 million).

Tokyo-based Mitsubishi sold 257,000 vehicles during the quarter, up 21 per cent from the previous year. Sales improved in Japan, with demand healthy for the Colt compact and Outlander sport utility vehicle. Sales were also strong in the rest of Asia, including China and Thailand.

Volkswagen posted its best quarterly profit in a couple of years, thanks to making more money in China (on higher demand for VW Jetta and Lavida and Audi A6) and the USA.

Sales in China, its largest market, jumped 46% in the quarter 950,729 cars, while its car market share there held at 17.9%. US sales are much smaller, but were up 29% to 175,323 vehicles, boosting market share from 2.8% to 3.1%.

Palladium is in the same family of metals as platinum, called platinum group metals (or PGMs). Other PGMs are rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, osmium, and, of course, platinum. All these metals share certain properties, with palladium being the least dense of all the metals in the group. Palladium also has the lowest melting point.