Boeing has moved to address persistent quality control problems and delivery delays involving airliner seats with a deal to create with Detroit-based automotive seating company Adient a joint venture called Adient Aerospace. Under the agreement, Boeing will control a 49.99 percent stake in the new company, established to design and manufacture seats for installation on new airplanes and as retrofits for aircraft assembled by Boeing and other commercial airplane manufacturers.
“Seats have been a persistent challenge for our customers, the industry, and Boeing, and we are taking action to help address constraints in the market,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes senior vice president of supply chain management, finance, and business operations Kevin Schemm. “Adient Aerospace will leverage Boeing’s industry leadership and deep understanding of customer needs and technical requirements to provide a superior seating product for airlines and passengers around the world. This joint venture supports Boeing's vertical integration strategy to develop in-house capabilities and depth in key areas to offer better products, grow services, and generate higher lifecycle value."
Boeing’s “vertical integration” strategy marks a reversal in efforts begun with the inception of the 787 Dreamliner to allocate more design and manufacturing responsibility to outside vendors. For example, Boeing returned wing production for the 777X to Everett, Washington, a move emblematic of an effort to ensure the company doesn’t experience a repeat of the 787’s delays and cost overruns.
Seat supply problems, however, have struck both Boeing and Airbus. The European manufacturer has experienced quality problems with seats made by French supplier Zodiac for the A350, forcing aircraft delivery delays and instigating deferrals. Zodiac, meanwhile, also has struggled to supply first- and business-class seats for United Airlines’s Polaris interiors in Boeing 777-300ERs.
Boeing and Adient plan to locate the joint venture’s headquarters, technology center, and initial production plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany, near Frankfurt, and the first customer service center in Seattle. Wholly owned Boeing subsidiary Aviall will perform Adient Aerospace’s aftermarket spare parts distribution.
Industry analysts forecast the commercial aircraft seating market to grow from some $4.5 billion in 2017 to $6 billion by 2026.