Europe’s Airbus to build planes in Alabama by 2016

Europe’s Airbus to build planes in Alabama by 2016

NEW YORK - Agence France-Presse
Europe’s Airbus to build planes in Alabama by 2016

Airbus plans to corner 50 pct of the narrow body US market by producing in the US. EPA photo

European planemaker Airbus unveiled plans to open a factory on Boeing’s home turf yesterday, a gambit that would see the firm roll out its first U.S.-built plane by 2016.

The new $600 million assembly plant, to be built in the southern port city of Mobile, Alabama, on the Gulf of Mexico, will produce the popular A320 family passenger planes.

Airbus estimates 4,600 new single-aisle aircraft will be needed in the United States over the next 20 years and the new US plant could more than double its share in the huge market. “The time is right for Airbus to expand in America,” said Fabrice Bregier, Airbus president and chief executive.

John Leahy, the company’s chief operating officer for customers, said that Airbus currently holds about 20 percent of the narrow-body US market.

“By becoming a U.S. citizen we can increase that market share to perhaps the... 50 percent that we’ve been able to enjoy in other parts of the world. I think it can be done in the next few years,” Leahy said at a news conference.

Leahy said the decision helps to level the playing field with Boeing, particularly in customers’ perceptions. “Now becoming a U.S. manufacturer -- and that’s the way it’s going to be perceived,” he said.

The Alabama plant “can only help us just the way BMW, Mercedes, Toyota moving into manufacturing in the U.S. helped them sell more cars in the U.S.,” he said.

The move extends the Toulouse, France-based company’s global production network, which includes assembly lines in Hamburg, Germany, and Tianjin, China.

Chicago-based Boeing, by contrast, only builds aircraft in the United States, in Washington state and South Carolina.

Airbus, a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, said construction of the plant at Mobile’s Brookley Aeroplex facility would begin in the summer of 2013.

Airbus has operated an engineering center at the site since 2007, providing support for the A380, A330 and A350 XWB planes.

A320 assembly is planned to start in 2015, with first deliveries set for 2016.The plant is expected to produce between 40 and 50 aircraft per year by 2018, and create up to 1,000 “high-skilled jobs” in the U.S.