Sept. 13, 2015, (c) Leeham Co., Mobile (AL): The new Airbus Final Assembly Line (FAL) opening today here will serve the US market, a plan that follows the philosophy when the company opened an FAL in
Tianjin, China years ago.
Just as that plant is intended to serve the Chinese airlines and lessors, so is this one for the US market.
Barry Eccleston, president and COO of Airbus Americas, said there remains plenty of growth in the North American market, which is considered mature in the global airline industry.
Traffic is going to go up 40% over the next 20 years, he said. Ninety percent of this 40% will come from existing routes, says Eccleston. This means the airliner are buying larger airplanes. A major number of the orders are for the A321s, which can carry up to 240 passengers.
“Our original plan was to open the Mobile plant with A320s, but it is with A321s.”
Even at 4/mo, the Mobile facility isn’t filing the need for A320s in the North American market, Eccleston said. There is a demand for nearly 6,000 passenger and freighter aircraft in North America over 20 years: 4,730 single-aisles, 1,000 twin aisles and 170 A380s.
Alan McArtor, CEO of Airbus Americas, said there are no plans now to go to 8/mo. The head of programs would make the decision whether to expand production in Hamburg, Toulouse or Mobile if a decision is made to take production rates to 60/mo.
Eccleston said the Mobile plant has resulted in some customers indicated they would like to announce that their A320s will be built in Mobile, but he and McArtor said they doubted it would be a deciding factor.
Bregier said he doesn’t see Mobile airplanes going to Latin American airlines for the foreseeable future because of the demand in the US.
Bregier said labor costs weren’t a driving factor in locating in Mobile–if that were the case, the plant would be located in Mexico. He said that the previous relationship during the US Air Force tanker competition with Mobile was key to moving forward with the A320 FAL here.