If Airbus doesn’t see a resolution to the row between China and the EU over Europe’s emissions trading scheme by year-end, it will have to seriously consider withdrawing its plan to increase A330 production from the current nine per month to 11 in 2014, Airbus COO for customers John Leahy said during a Thursday briefing at the Farnborough airshow.
Having increased A330 build rates steadily over the past five years from seven a month, the European airframer now plans to raise rates from the current nine to 10 in 2013. Although those plans appear unthreatened, the fact that China holds an order for between 35 and 45 A330s “in abeyance,” according to Leahy, renders Airbus’s plans for 2014 less definitive.
“You’d be looking at open positions, so the first thing you would do is keep sliding positions back out, bringing other customers forward,” said Leahy. “So it’s a moving target. But we’ll have to see some sort of breakthrough by the end of this year.”
Also on hand in Farnborough, new Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier reiterated the company’s support “in principle” for ETS.
“Everything we do in development goes toward reduction [of fuel burn and, by the same token,] emissions,” said Bregier. “And we understand that the best solution is to extend in one way or another a similar mechanism in the world because we are talking about a global market. So anything that can be done to achieve a consensus is heavily supported by Airbus.”
Notwithstanding the threat from China, Airbus boosted its outlook for the A330 considerably at the show with an order for 10 of the widebodies from CIT Group, the effective launch customer for a new version of the airplane featuring increased mtow and range/payload. The improvements would raise the takeoff weight to 240 metric tons, range by 400 nm and nearly five tons more payload-carrying capability.
Bregier added that he expects the A330 to continue selling through 2020, despite the coming introduction of the A350XWB series.