Turboprop No. 1 ATR Plans U.S. Return as Emerging Markets Slide

  • Strong dollar caused canceled deliveries in Brazil, Malaysia
  • European manufacturer still handed over a record 88 aircraft

World-leading turboprop manufacturer Avions de Transport Regional or ATR said it will put more emphasis on U.S. sales after missing its delivery target last year as a stronger dollar left customers in some emerging markets unable to fund aircraft purchases.

While ATR, jointly owned by Airbus Group SE and Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA, handed over a record 88 aircraft, that was two short of its mid-year target and seven shy of the goal set at the start of 2015, Chief Executive Officer Patrick de Castelbajac said Thursday. Supplier issues also crimped production.

“South America is in crisis and the Asia-Pacific is slowing down,” Castelbajac said in an interview in Paris. “We need to go back to places where the growth is -- India, the U.S. and possibly China, where we don’t have a presence.”

Some of the missed deliveries were destined for Brazil, where the real fell more than 50 percent against the dollar in 2015, he said. Malaysian deliveries were also affected after the local currency declined 30 percent.

Short-Hop Advantage

ATR once counted the U.S. as its second-biggest market after Europe and has 70 aircraft in operation there even after sales slowed in the 1990s as carriers embraced regional-jet models. Routes like New York to Washington or Boston take five minutes longer by turboprop but use half the fuel, the CEO said.

Since 2010, ATR planes have been the top sellers among models seating 90 passengers or fewer, giving the company a 37 percent market share in a category that includes regional jets from manufacturers such as Bombardier Inc., or 77 percent if only turboprop types are included.

ATR has a backlog of 260 planes with a value of $6.6 billion, equivalent to three years of production. It forecasts 90 deliveries in 2016, combined with more than 100 orders, after selling 76 aircraft in 2015.

A trend toward the operation of larger regional aircraft has pushed ATR to explore an expansion of its product lineup beyond 50- and 70-seaters, though Castelbajac said that nothing is planned in that sector right now.

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