By on March 16, 2018


TTAC commentator Halftruth asks:

Hey Sajeev,

This question came across my mind recently whilst reading all of the sedan death watch articles on TTAC. What happens to all the tooling and hardware when a model is discontinued/killed off? Can any of this stuff be recycled/redeployed?

Consider the Chryco 200, discontinued after 2 years. Will FCA mothball that stuff or throw it out or… something else?

Sajeev answers:

Finding relevant, concrete facts is challenging, so remember vehicle tooling eventually wears out. Especially for consumer touch points like body parts: perfect panel gaps are paramount to a (perceived?) quality product. Don’t be surprised if vehicles that remain unchanged for years (a la 2009-present Toyota 4Runner) go through multiple sets of tooling.

And when the tooling fails to make the cut (so to speak), I reckon most is destroyed. First World manufacturers now refrain from selling sloppy seconds to their Third World counterparts, preferring the role of global manufacturers doing their thang in everyone’s backyard.

Redeployment? Yes, imagining the modern equivalent of the Vauxhall Victor reincarnated on a new continent is a romantic notion I’d love to indulge. Wouldn’t it be awesome if the durable, simple and strong Crown Vic became the next masala-infused Muscle car?

But that’s no longer viable. And if a cruise ship is worth 5+ million in scrap, assuming a financially significant value for vehicle’s collective tooling is far from insane. So what of the Chrysler 200’s tooling?

It’s probably off to the scrappers, if it hasn’t already turned into new tooling!

What say you, Best and Brightest?

[Image: Shutterstock user Zapp2Photo]

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice. 

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34 Comments on “Piston Slap: New Life for Old Tooling… Or Not?...”

  • avatar

    I remember when Chrysler sold Sebring tooling to GAZ and they started cranking them out as the Volga Siber for a few years. The biggest win out of that deal was cramming the 2.4L “world engine” under the hood of the old 31105 Volga.

    • 0 avatar
      Shortest Circuit

      Had the misfortune of seeing one of those Volgas. Not many manufacturers would dare to market a leaf-sprung solid axle car with rear drum brakes in 2002. Volga also seemingly skipped on getting the modern electronics, instead opting for a hodge-podge of a russian Bosch Motronic clone with semi-sequential injection, unknown (to me) russian manufactured sensors, the only Western part was the Siemens MAF.

      • 0 avatar

        Heck forget the leaf springs and rear drums, these things had kingpin(!) front ends and front drums well into the mid 90s (31029), to say nothing of the carburetors. But for rural Russian use, as long as you kept them greased the old school front ends really lasted, and the leaf spring rear rode great and could haul many sacks of potatoes from the dacha (I don’t say that tongue-in-cheek-stereotypically but seriously). Once they went OHC and fuel injected with the 406/402 motor, reliability and serviceability dipped although the shade-trees figured them out quickly enough.

    • 0 avatar

      I knew the guy in charge of that project. They had to move the tooling and all related from the US to Russia via Europe due to tax issues. But they still really thought they were on to a winner. How we laughed.

      Laughed even more when I was due to do a plant walk around in Nizhny Novgorod for a feature and they cancelled at the last minute. Instead of working I spent three days drinking Russian Standard in middle Russia.

  • avatar

    I know there are several Wikipedia mentions of tooling being shipped from the us to somewhere in South America for various Ford and Chevy makes after a next generation is released. I think that word can have a pretty broad definition though. Is a jig that picks up fenders/dash assemblies/seats/etc to line them up on the car “tooling”? I would say it is. I doubt that has as much wear and tear as a stamp die. Maybe older welding robots?

    • 0 avatar

      I was just about to make the same comment. Stamping dies are certainly an important part of production, but there are an awful lot of custom pieces of hardware that exist to aid in the assembly process that probably last a lot longer and can be useful for quite some time. (Not to mention the fact that somebody’s worked out how to efficiently assemble a particular design; I’m sure that’s no small amount of effort and expense.)

  • avatar

    Trump can it take it to North Korea in May. Let the DPRK blind us capitalists with bright headlights or whatever.

  • avatar

    I work in a plastic injection company that makes big parts for heavy trucking, and intake tubes / sound dampening for cars. We have a bunch of very large tooling/molds stored away at our maintenance location. Kept around to make service parts. Some of it looks pretty old so I’ve never asked why we keep those particular molds around – not my department!! – but there must be some value in scrap metal alone.

    As an aside – one of our molds is large enough that you could drive a F150 truck inside. And a particularly large mold was created – as an experiment – to do a single press to make a lightweight plastic bodied car for 3rd world countries.

    I have read that Ford destroyed the original 5.0 OHV tooling / molds. I imagine they also did the same with – for example – the Crown Vic frames / body panels.

  • avatar

    I would think the tooling is destroyed and sold. Car companies dont want usable tooling in someone elses hands and cranking out parts for whatever use.
    Tool steel is very high level stuff = expensive = valuable.

    • 0 avatar

      I would think that there would be money in licensing and leasing some tooling from popular discontinued models (see Panther cars) to aftermarket parts manufacturers. Put the aftermarket company’s logo on it, let them be accountable for quality control, and continue to collect revenue for decades.

  • avatar

    Didn’t they just recently discontinue the B13 Nissan Tsuru (’91-’95 Sentra in U.S.) in S. America? It’s still a popular taxi cab all these years later in Lima, Peru.

    I think the decision to finally close the book on the B13 came from bad publicity following a crash test comparison between the Tsuru and a modern Versa.

    Thus, I would imagine that in the internet age and with a growing emphasis on safety technology at every corner of the globe, redeploying old tooling (except maybe in China, where the old Cherokee continues its zombie existence) is mostly a thing of the past.

    • 0 avatar

      They’re the #1 cab in Puerto Vallarta and much of Mexico as well, the Versas are definitely lined up to be their replacement. The latter are much roomier and comfier in the back, but I still prefer a ride in a beat up Tsuru. “When in Rome”

      • 0 avatar

        I rode in one down there that had the steel belts poking out of every tire and looked like two cars had been welded together by a kid using his dad’s tools. Lifting the floor mat revealed the road moving under my feet like the Flintstones.

        I don’t think safety is much of a priority for many of the cabbies. But like you said, it’s all part of the charm and adventure!

  • avatar

    Most tooling is probably scrap by the end of a car’s run. Exceptions would be plastic part molds because they usually have many multiple cavities to keep up with production volume plus increased likelihood of multi-sourcing but alternately non-appearance plastics are more likely to service multiple generations of multiple vehicles. Interior plastics’ secret sauce is in the materials and process controls so even having the tooling is of limited value.

    Increasing use of aluminum and high-strength steels is going to decrease the life of stamping dies, making it more likely they’ll go to scrap. This also makes it more likely that even OEM replacement parts will suffer degraded quality in the years after the model’s run is over but while it’s still supported with factory spares.

  • avatar

    I think Saab/GM sold the old tooling for the old 95 and 93 models to china for them to continue pumping them out, I think the 9/3 tooling ended up in Turkey, I guess it makes sense on long in the tooth models

    • 0 avatar

      Technically turkey got the Cadillac BLS tooling, a European model which was heavily based on the Saab 93 (look it up, it’s literally a Saab with a Caddy nose and tail)

      Though the 93 itself was getting on in years before it was killed off, the presses were likely done.

  • avatar

    Automated welding and painting equipment can be reprogrammed. Also things like water jet cutters.
    Assembly line fixtures for holding bodies and parts could be re-purposed if they have adjust-ability or replaceable end bits.
    It’s not that much different to assemble a sedan than the SUV/CUV based on it.
    I do not know about the auto factories, but the Japanese motorcycle plants will assemble a year’s production run of a street bike in a month or so. Then the line will be converted to making dirt bikes or ATVs.
    As others have mentioned there are potential problems if special tooling gets reused by someone else. Liability concerns will make it necessary to render tools unusable by cutting, drilling, or crushing.

  • avatar

    Sometimes they get cast off to other parts of the manufacturer group.

    The SEAT Exeo, for example, was an old Audi A4.

  • avatar

    Well, legally all companies have to produce replacement parts for cars for a specific number of years.

    If they shipped the dies of the 200 to the scrapper, how do they fix one that’s been in a accident.

    Odds are, the production racks, etc are gone/switch out to the new Ram. But the stamping dies, etc are still around.

  • avatar

    Audi once “sold” the A4 (B7) production line to their sister company Seat and transported all machinery and stuff by truck from Germany to Spain to build the Seat Exeo.

    In China there is a lot of old production tech around. When SAIC bought the leftovers of MG Rover, I think they moved a lot of production lines to China. The Roewe 750 was based on the old Rover 75, built in China on the classic Rover lines.

    The SAIC / LDV Maxus 80 is a Chinese-built van with a very funny story: LDV (Leyland DAF Vans, Birmingham. Part of the Rover Group & Leyland DAF) developed a new van, together with pre-GM Daewoo. It was built in Lublin, Poland, starting in 2004. Then LDV bought all the rights and tooling and moved everything to Birmingham. In 2005, GAZ from Russia bought LDV, and failed. In 2010, SAIC from China bought everything and shipped the tooling to China (2,700 shipping containers, including metal presses). Today, SAIC builds the SAIC and LDV Maxus, which is very popular in China, and in RHD markets like NZ, AUS, UK. The diesel engine (there’s also a BEV version) still in use today was developed by VM Motori from Italy, and I suppose the design is similar to old Iveco Daily or Ford Transit engines , and yes, it rolls coal.

    More reads:

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I don’t quite understand the organization of Volkswagen Group. Stuff gets “sold” to other divisions all the time. Some subbrands are subsidiaries of other subbrands (see Audi’s ownership of Lamborghini, and Lamborghini’s ownership of Ducati). And evidently, Porsche is able to sue Volkswagen for the diesel engines, even though I though they were both part of the same conglomerate.

      It’s a lot like GM was up to the 80s or so, when it was a collection of separate companies with a common arbiter and a few shared resources.

      • 0 avatar

        I think they are highly decentralized profit centers and frenemies to a certain extent. If you develop some tech a sister company wants to use, of course you write an invoice, because in the end your sister company is also a competitor. It would be different if the brands would be just brands, but I think Audi employs a similar amount of engineers as VW (afair 8,000, that might have changed and Im too lazy to flip through the annual reports)(perhaps Audi allocates too many folks on door clunk sound design and taillight animations)

      • 0 avatar

        Probably, my guess is it’s designed to shelter as much income as possible from the German equivalent of the IRS.

      • 0 avatar

        I worked for a bakery with several jointly owned but separate entities. It was a great way to lower profits of the main business and spread them around to the other entities at lower tax rates, the profits all eventually going into the same pockets. It’s tax avoidance but it’s technically legal, as long as you have lawyers dotting the i’s and crossing the T’s.

        • 0 avatar


          You don’t need lawyers IF you take the time to read the tax code. It spells it all out for you, and if you use a tax program or accounting program, it asks you the pertinent questions.

          What you described is the way my wife’s dad had his real estate businesses set up, almost exactly.

          That was because of tax avoidance, not tax evasion.

          Because of those avoidance provisions, I was able to work off the books for more than 30 years, as do hundreds of thousands of American citizens.

  • avatar

    Depends. If there is no need to keep tooling around, it’s scrapped. If there is a need for service parts, it’s kept until someone decides it’s time for it to go. Sometimes there might be a market to sell off an entire program, as was already mentioned with the Volga Siber.

  • avatar

    Of course old tooling can be re-used. Certainly most remember when Borgward tooling was sold to a Mexican company and production continued for a few years there. Likewise, the tooling for the original Nash Rambler was resurrected to produce 2 generations of the Rambler American.

    • 0 avatar

      I heard, when living in South Africa ( 90’s ) that the Opel Astra tooling went to Daewoo in South Korea – we got this version of the Daewoo in South Africa and it was one of the most horrible cars produced, the Opel Astra was a highly respected car.
      The Nissan 1400 was built there from 70’s to 2008 when the tooling started wearing out, I owned one of these , great mini truck.

  • avatar

    Seat, Skoda. There, I said it.

  • avatar

    Here’s my naive question. What happens to all the cars that *don’t* get sold? I’ve always wondered where the last few 2016s, for example, go.

  • avatar

    Seeing the better part of a brand-new Hyundai Sonata unit body protruding from a dumpster out behind the Montgomery assembly plant in 2008 really put the economics of auto production into perspective for me.

    To quote Homer Simpson’s long-lost half brother, “There’s maybe forty bucks of steel in there”.

    I’m guessing that well-used tooling is similarly discounted to mere salvage values.

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