Boeing CEO Jim McNerney is cited in the Puget Sound Business Journal on labor unions, China and other stuff from his appearance at an aerospace summit.
In the article, McNerney tries to take a moderate stance on unions. But just this week Boeing announced it is moving SPEEA and other union jobs out of Puget Sound, here and here. The moves resulted in a blast from Seattle Times columnist Jon Talton here, and our response here.
Production is booming in Seattle’s Puget Sound, but it’s clear to us that Boeing is engaged in a long-term strategy to build up Charleston as a major, second production plant–not just a 787 production line. We see Charleston-as-to-Seattle as Hamburg-is-to-Toulouse some day. We don’t see Everett shutting down (at least not in our lifetime) because there is too much there. We think Renton is more at risk, once there is a New Small Airplane finally designed to replace the 737–but this is well into the next decade.
The question over where the 777X will be be built is, to us, a little more vexing. Logic says build it here, given the similarities between the baseline 777 and the derivative 777X. This is no different in principal than the 737NG and the 737 MAX–it would have been silly to build it elsewhere.
But McNerney’s comments about labor in the Business Journal notwithstanding, the anti-union sentiment at Boeing Corporate is obvious for all to see.
The future of the 747-8 is in jeopardy. Boeing said as much in its 2012 10K:
The accounting quantity for the 747 program increased by 25 units in 2012, reflecting the normal process of estimating planned production under existing and anticipated contracts. We continue to incorporate changes identified during flight testing into previously completed airplanes.
The production rate increased from 1.5 to 2 airplanes per month in May 2012. Ongoing weakness in the air cargo market and lower-than-expected demand for large commercial passenger aircraft have resulted in pricing pressures and fewer orders than anticipated in 2012. We have a number of unsold Freighter and Intercontinental production positions beyond 2013. If we are unable to obtain orders for multiple Freighter aircraft in 2013 consistent with our near-term production plans, we may be required to take actions including reducing the number of airplanes produced and/or building airplanes for which we have not received firm orders. We also remain focused on reducing out-of-sequence work, improving supply chain efficiency and implementing cost-reduction efforts. If market and production risks cannot be mitigated, the program could face an additional reach-forward loss that may be material.
If Boeing cancels the 747-8 program early (i.e, within the next few years) due to lack of sales, the bay where the airplane is built will be vacated for the 777X line to be built right along side the 777. We believe the 777-9X, a 406 passenger concept, will kill the already-dismal prospects for the 747-8I. Cargo traffic is not recovering well, as the 10K comments suggest.
We don’t count on building the 777X in Seattle. Boeing being Boeing, it will analyze site location because that’s what it does. But buying hundreds of acres in Charleston and the clear, obvious anti-union sentiment from Chicago are ominous signs. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is already on record vowing to see the 777X built here. But there is little he can do while Jim McNerney remains CEO.