Airbus will spare no effort to be the dominant player in China, with its president and CEO pledging a personal commitment to the manufacturer's partnerships in the country.
Speaking to the media ahead of the groundbreaking of its A330 completion and delivery centre in Tianjin, the manufacturer’s first outside of its European home ground, Airbus chief Fabrice Bregier said he first mooted the idea of the widebody facility 2 years ago, believing it to be a necessary step to capture China’s ballooning demand for larger jets.
“So, we are targeting widebodies in China and focusing first on the A330," said Bergier.
"We’re also looking for partners to make sure A330 production will remain at high levels, and came to the conclusion that we could not do that without also having a strong industrial footprint.”
True enough, China signed for 45 A330s when Airbus inked the agreement for the A330 completions line, and later also firmed options for a further 30 of the type.
Bregier pointed out that the 75 A330s are the largest order for widebodies from China thus far.
He described this as “only the beginning of a very long and successful journey”.
Once operational in 2017, Tianjin will become the 3rd city in the world to deliver both narrowbody and widebody aircraft, after Toulouse and Seattle.
Airbus also intends to extend the line to complete the A330neo and A350 in the future, knowing full well the importance of the market, which absorbs about 20% of its annual aircraft production.
Bregier contended that its A320 final assembly line in Tianjin has played a critical role to grow its China marketshare from 27% in 2004 to the current 50%.
He therefore does not rule out the possibility of setting up a widebody production line in the country, but points out that Airbus does not at current have a business case to do so. Widebody assembly, he says, is “more complex and costly”.
“China has focused, rightly so, on single-aisle a lot and will continue to procure lots of single-aisles, but I’m sure the next step will be getting more widebodies. So perhaps one day there will be enough market to look at such an investment.”
“We have to be realistic, we will not get 80% of the Chinese market. Being above 50% is my target. In the coming years there will be new players such as Comac, this is why we support our commercial efforts through this very important A330 completion centre investment.”