Airbus Pledges to Put C Series Ahead of A319 in Sales Push

Updated on
  • CEO Enders says Bombardier model will supplant slow seller
  • Canadian plane’s technology set to feature in future projects

Airbus Executive VP Says Right Time for Bombardier Deal

Airbus SE will prioritize sales of Bombardier Inc.’s C Series jet over the smallest version of its own single-aisle plane while seeking to adapt the model’s key elements for future projects following the surprise tie-up between the companies, according to Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders.

Airbus will “definitely” push the Canadian model’s largest variant, the CS300, at the expense of the similarly sized A319neo, Enders said in an interview Wednesday. The European planemaker hasn’t announced a new airline customer for the jet in five years, since Bombardier’s aircraft emerged as a serious rival.

“That was the last time we sold the plane,” he said. “That tells you something about the competition between the A319 and the C Series.”

Airbus this week agreed to take a 50.01 percent stake in the Bombardier program in a deal that will put the might of its global sales machine behind the North American model. Enders said he’s confident the surprise deal will make both the CS300 and the smaller CS100 a “roaring success in the market.”

The A319neo, as the new-engine option version of the model is known, has garnered just 51 orders. Latin American operator Avianca is due to take 20 planes after slimming down an original deal in preference for larger A320neos, with Denver-based Frontier Airlines in line for 18 and government or executive buyers taking three. The purchasers of the other 10 jets are unidentified.

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The smallest A320-series Airbus, the A318, has already fallen by the wayside, with the last of about 80 planes sold in 2015 and the model not on offer in upgraded Neo form. The C Series has amassed 360 firm orders, around two-thirds of them for the CS300.

Enders, speaking at the EU Aeronautics conference in Brussels, said Airbus plans to tap cutting-edge C Series technology in areas such as the cockpit, avionics and composite materials for future aircraft models.

“That has always been Airbus’s strategy, to look for as much commonality between the various aircraft as possible,” he said. “There’s a lot I think we can do. The C Series is a state-of-the-art aircraft in every aspect, one of the most modern generation aircraft in terms of cockpit, in terms of material.”

The Airbus-Bombardier deal could take six to 12 months “or even longer” to be completed, providing “plenty of time to figure out what we want to do,” the CEO said.

Enders described U.S. tariffs imposed on the C Series after a complaint from Boeing Co. as “ludicrous.” Airbus is planning to open a production line for the plane at its own plant in Mobile, Alabama, in a move that may help Bombardier escape the 300 percent duty imposed on planes bound for the American market.

Delta Air Lines Inc., the biggest buyer of the C Series, expects its jets to come from the Alabama assembly line, Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian told reporters Wednesday in Atlanta. He repeated his vow not to pay the tariffs and said he hoped the Airbus-Bombardier deal would “minimize” some of the political rhetoric around the duties.

— With assistance by Michael Sasso, and Frederic Tomesco

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