Airbus faces a challenge to meet delivery targets for the A350 jet this year due to problems with suppliers, the head of the European planemaker said in remarks published on Wednesday.
Airbus still has to deliver at least 41 of the new long-haul jets to reach a target of more than 50 for the whole year, after a slow start blamed partly on shortages of seats and lavatories.
“The target remains a challenge because some of our industrial partners are experiencing difficulties,” Fabrice Bregier, president and CEO of the planemaking division of Airbus Group told France’s La Tribune daily in an interview.
Asked whether this meant problems and delays with cabin equipment from France’s Zodiac Aerospace remained unresolved, Bregier said: “The situation is improving, but not enough to allow us to meet all our commitments. Improvement plans have been launched, but too late”.
Zodiac said on Tuesday the operational performance of its Cabin branch continued to be affected by problems with lavatories for the Airbus A350, but that delays in seat production were coming under control.
Bregier expressed greater optimism about production of the smaller A320neo, saying glitches with Pratt & Whitney engines were being fixed and Airbus aimed to catch up with delivery plans in the second half of the year.
“It is achievable, even if it is a stretch,” he said.
Bregier said Airbus did not yet have sufficient promises of orders to commit to a possible larger version of the A350 to compete with Boeing’s 406-seat 777-9, and that discussions of an engine revamp of the slow-selling A380 were on hold for now.
In a wide-ranging interview, Bregier said planemakers Airbus and Boeing should expect challenges to their duopoly in the next 15 years as China, Russia and others try to compete.
Asked whether China could penetrate the market dominated by the two main planemakers, he said: “Why shouldn’t it? It’s doing so in all other high-technology areas”.
Bregier visited China this week as part of a delegation led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, though Airbus failed to secure a major new order for its jets as some had expected.
Bregier left open the possibility of future alliances between planemakers, without giving names.
“For its own development, Airbus has no need for a strategic alliance. On the other hand, it would be taking liberties with the future to say that there will never be one,” he said.
On present-day rivalries, Bregier cast doubt on studies carried out by Boeing for an airplane between the traditional narrow-body and wide-body categories, widely known as the “middle of the market”.
Airbus has outsold Boeing in the largest part of the narrow-body segment with its 185-seat A321neo, though Boeing says its proposed mid-market plane would be bigger than this.
“Saying Boeing is interested in this (middle) market is one thing. Finding the right solution to compete with us is another. Imagining a new generation of aircraft being produced in volume before 2030 is very improbable,” Bregier said.
Industry sources say Boeing is pondering a strategic move to build two mid-market jets with 220 and 260 seats, to be available from around 2024-25. It is also considering a quicker tactical move to expand its narrow-body family with a larger new variant called 737 MAX 10 to counter the A321neo.