Airbus says U.S. factory will be world's most efficient

Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:15pm EDT
 
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By Alwyn Scott

MOBILE, Ala. (Reuters) - Airbus Group (AIR.PA: Quote) said on Sunday that its first U.S. factory, due to formally open on Monday, will be the most efficient in the world and will focus on building the largest version of the company's single-aisle aircraft.

The elegant, skylit factory on 116 acres here will be capable of making up to eight A320 family jetliners a month, though Airbus said it has no plans for that level of production.

The factory is a potent challenge to rival Boeing Co (BA.N: Quote). Both companies now make 42 single-aisle planes a month and plan to lift output sharply to fill back orders for new planes.

Airbus originally planned to produce mainly smaller A320s in Mobile, but the larger A321 version, which seats up to 240 passengers, has outsold the Boeing rival.

"This is where the U.S. market is going," said Barry Eccleston, president of Airbus Americas.

Boeing makes its competing 737 jetliner at a single factory in Renton, Washington, and plans to lift the rate to 52 a month in 2018. Airbus, with A320 facilities in Germany, France and China, plans to lift production to 50 a month in 2017.

Airbus Chief Executive Fabrice Brégier said demand easily supports producing 60 a month, and Airbus expects to decide this year whether to target that rate. If it does, it would add a fourth assembly line in Germany before raising production further in Alabama, he said.

The new U.S. plant is scheduled to be producing four planes a month by late 2017, and gives Airbus the ability to go higher just by adding work shifts and small capital investments.   Continued...

 
People are silhouetted past a logo of the Airbus Group during the Airbus annual news conference in Colomiers, near Toulouse January 13, 2015.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau