Albuquerque, N.M.-based Eclipse Aviation in late May increased the price of the Eclipse 500 very light jet by about a half million dollars, putting it closer in range to the $2.76 million (2008 $) Cessna Citation Mustang, a slightly larger competitor. The 30-percent price increase to $2.15 million (June 2008 $) nearly triples the original $837,000 price tag announced for the twinjet some 10 years ago. In the ensuing years, Eclipse has raised the VLJ’s price three times.
The price increase could affect hundreds of Eclipse customers, the company said, since only customers who already put down a 60-percent deposit were exempt from the hike. However, since air-taxi DayJet deferred its 16 deliveries this year, Eclipse last month offered these slots to existing customers at the previous $1.6 million price, provided that they immediately provide the deposit.
Eclipse said the higher price was due to rising manufacturing costs and a slower-than-anticipated production rate. In the past, Eclipse said it could maintain its claimed low prices by producing a high volume of Eclipse 500s, at one time saying it would produce up to 1,500 of the VLJs per year. Since then, the company has slowly backed off that forecast, lowering the figure to a possible 500 airplanes per year.
However, Eclipse has yet to meet its goal set early last year of producing one airplane per day. At press time, Eclipse had delivered a little more than 200 Eclipse 500s since FAA type certification was obtained in September 2006, an average annual production rate of 160 airplanes. While this is the fastest ramp up of any previous start-up aircraft manufacturer, it still falls well short of Eclipse’s production-capacity promises.