Airbus Banks On A380 Sales Recovery

 - January 21, 2013, 12:45 PM
As Airbus’s new CEO, Fabrice Bregier presided over the European airframer’s annual start-of-year press conference for the first time on January 17.

Airbus has raised its sales target for 2013 to 700 airliners after surpassing its target of 650 for last year with gross orders for 914 airplanes and a net order count of 833 after cancellations. But the European airframer has acknowledged that it is especially eager to get sales of its A380 widebody back on track after logging orders for only nine of the superjumbos in 2012.

“We delivered 30 aircraft [in 2012] and the wing rib feet [cracking] issue is behind us,” Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier told a January 17 press conference in Toulouse. “The final design [fix] will be incorporated progressively on all new A380 deliveries from 2014…[and] we have clear plans to retrofit other aircraft to give back full capability in 2013/14.” He said the problem had cost it one month of production and that Airbus aims to deliver 25 A380s this year. The program would reach break-even in 2015, assuming it again reaches deliveries of 30 in that year and cuts recurring costs.

“Twenty-twelve was a great year in deliveries and order intake,” said Bregier, who also noted that it marked the 11th straight year of production increases. He contrasted Airbus’s production stability with Boeing’s volatility in the U.S., where he claimed production volumes had fluctuated wildly, causing shareholder concern.

Airbus now refers to the A320 series as Ceos and Neos to distinguish between the existing models (Ceos) powered by the CFM56 or IAE V2500 engines and the new Neo versions, available with either the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G or CFM Leap 1A. Bregier claimed that Airbus has achieved a 62-percent market share in the order race between the Neo and the 737 Max, which Boeing launched eight months later.

“We want a smooth transition between the Ceo and the Neo,” added Bregier, who noted that the Ceo continues to sell well. As for the Neo, he said, “We have made good progress and the [Pratt & Whitney PW1100G] engine had its first ground tests at the end of November.” Airbus has scheduled first delivery for late 2015.

Meanwhile, said Bregier, ground breaking of the new final assembly line in Mobile, Alabama, will take place this spring, in time to allow for delivery of the first U.S.-built A320 in 2016. Negotiations with Chinese authorities to secure the future of the Tianjin production continue, he said.