Boeing Co. said the timetable for developing a new narrow-body jet is the “No. 1 thing” in the planemaker’s decision on whether to offer other engines for its best-selling 737 airliner.
“The case for re-engining strengthens” if the successor to the 737 won’t be ready until 2025, Chief Executive Officer James McNerney said on a webcast from a Sanford C. Bernstein conference in New York. “If the answer is 2020, then no matter what Airbus does, I think our customers will wait for us.”
Boeing and its larger commercial competitor, Airbus SAS, have been pushing back the timeline for a new narrow-body plane as they struggle with the materials and technology they want to use. They have said they’ll decide this year whether to provide more fuel-efficient engines for existing models to keep buyers from jumping to rivals such as Bombardier Inc.’s CSeries jet.
Single-aisle planes are the workhorses of the airline industry, and the 737 accounts for 60 percent of the seven-year order backlog at Chicago-based Boeing. The planemakers don’t want their choice of upgraded engines or new planes to spur customers to drop existing orders to await the next models.
“I’d rather not put the backlog at risk twice unless we have to,” McNerney said.