Dassault Aviation is expecting Falcon deliveries to drop to 25 units this year, a 26 percent slide from the 34 delivered in 2020, as the French manufacturer works to rebuild backlog and prepares to unveil its next "Future Falcon" model in the coming months.
Releasing its 2020 results today, Dassault reported net sales decreased from €7.34 billion ($8.75 billion) in 2019 to €5.49 billion last year as deliveries of Falcons were off by six units and its Rafale fighter jet exports dropped by half to 13. However, net sales on the Falcon side of the business increased from €2.19 billion in 2019 to nearly €2.23 billion last year, propelled by an increase in preowned aircraft deliveries.
At the same time, the Falcon backlog dipped by €186 million to €2.147 billion as 2020 yielded orders for just 15 Falcons, compared with 40 the year earlier. Seven of those Falcons involve sales to French Navy for the Albatros maritime surveillance aircraft program. The backlog now includes 34 Falcons.
“2020 was an extraordinary year, dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic that plunged the entire world into a health and economic crisis,” said Eric Trappier, chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. This brought on workplace shutdowns, remote working, and supplier delays, he noted. By mid-2020 Dassault had revised downward its original delivery plan to 30 Falcons.
But the company was able to best that forecast with the 34 deliveries and at the same time progress on new product development with the rollout late last year of the Falcon 6X. Further, Dassault was laying the groundwork to remain on pace for development of the Future Falcon and it plans to announce the model in the first half of this year, he said, adding that announcement will come either virtually or in-person if conditions are better. However, Trappier stressed he will no longer wait for in-person, if it is not possible, adding that the rollout of the 6X late last year demonstrated the success of virtual rollouts.
Besides the new aircraft products, Dassault is investing in a number of environmental sustainability efforts, Trappier said. This includes research in making its aircraft line compatible with 100 percent biofuels. Dassault is further exploring possibilities to make biofuel more available and is collaborating on hydrogen research. It is looking at the entire aircraft cycle from a sustainability standpoint, from design to choice of materials and recycling, he said.
In forecasting 2021 sales, Trappier said the year “will still be dominated by the pandemic and its consequences for public health and the economy.” However, it will focus on and anticipates that Falcon sales will increase, he said.