Fabrice Bregier, CEO: Customers were asking, why don’t you come closer to us? Currently more than 200 aircraft a year for US, Canada. Capacity for more than 400. Expect to build A320neo to at least 2030.
Christian Scherer, head of strategy: An assembly line is not just an assembly line but a whole compound. 116 acres of industrial complex. Seven buildings. Shipped to deep sea port of Mobile and trucked to the facility. From shipment to roll-out, about 2 1/2 months. Expansion beyond 116 acres possible. It is pretty much a carbon copy of Europe. Reducing industrial risk by copying it.
Scherer: This is limited to A320. We have negotiated option for land expansion, but no plans for that now. Could have support facilities.
Bregier: This is a strategy move first. We considered that despite procuring $12bn from suppliers in US, we needed to be visible. There is a wave of replacement aircraft needed, and we have the right product in A320neo and producing this in America will be an advantage. Our lines in Europe are competitive [but are costed in Euros]. We avoid transporting suppliers, engines to Europe for reimport to US; these will go directly to Mobile.
Scherer: Proximity to a very, very large market and international footprint for the company are strategic drivers. It is as simple as that.
Airbus official: More than half the value of A320 already comes from America (driven mostly by engines).
Alan McArtor, Chairman Airbus Americas: Typically there is a halo affect that will attract suppliers to the region.
Bregier: Right now struggling to achieve rate 42 in October this year due to supply chain. We need to first stabilize supply chain. First deliveries here in 2016. We know that if we could deliver much more than 42 NEOs a month from 2016, there is a huge potential. It’s premature to say we’ll ramp up beyond 42 a month but with NEO there is huge potential.
Bregier: Already have 220 Airbus engineers in Mobile.
Scherer: Incentives in excess of $100m.
Bregier: Euro-dollar exchange rate not a consideration to a long-term investment. Unions: every9one prefers to have investments in-country but we have invested $14bn Euros in Europe, so it’s time to invest in the US.
McArtor: Having an industrial citizenship in the US can’t hurt for future DOD contracts. It’s not the reason we’re doing it right now but the answer to the potential is yes.
Scherer: There are no plans to convert passenger-to-cargo planes here. If and when [our other facilities] have exhausted their capacity, then it would make sense to consider here.
Separate from the press conference, we asked about CEO and NEO production: CEO will be assembled first at Mobile.