Airbus has committed to raising A320 production at its factory in Tianjin, China, from four to six per month as part of an agreement reached in Beijing Tuesday with China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC). Signed during French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to China, the memorandum of understanding also calls for the sides to strengthen their cooperation “with regards to technical innovation, engineering capabilities, and supply chain expansion.”
The agreement calls for the Tianjin final assembly line (FAL) to accelerate production to five aircraft by early 2019 and six per month by early 2020. Since its inauguration in 2008 the line has assembled a total of 354 A320-family jets. Deliveries to Chinese customers and to operators throughout the Asia-Pacific region included the first A320neo in the second half of last year.
“The industrial cooperation between Airbus and China and its continued success are a true role-model of a winning partnership between China and Europe,” said Airbus COO and president of Commercial Aircraft Fabrice Bregier. "Together with our Chinese partners we are proud to lift our cooperation to new heights.”
The deal comes as several news outlets reported that unidentified sources said that Airbus and the Chinese government have entered negotiations over a work-share pact on the A380 in exchange for orders for the superjumbo. However, neither side has officially acknowledged the existence of talks to help resuscitate prospects for that program, widely seen as imperiled by a lack of recent sales.
During November’s Dubai Airshow, a highly anticipated order from Emirates Airline for 36 A380s never materialized despite positive signals sent by the airline and the manufacturer just before the show. Originally expected on the show’s opening day, the announcement about the A380s hinged on a demand by Emirates that Airbus issue a guarantee that production of the superjumbo would continue for at least another 10 years, confirmed the airline.
The developments came a day after Emirates apparently exacted a last-minute snub of Airbus on the A380s. As reporters gathered for what Boeing and Airbus executives expected to be a joint order announcement, representatives from both manufacturers joined them in one of the venue’s conference rooms. But after an extended delay, the Airbus officials left and Emirates chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum entered and took a seat behind a model of a 787-10, forty of which the airline would ultimately commit to order.