Airbus announced plans to invest $600 million over the next five years in building an assembly line in Mobile, Alabama for its A320 single-aisle jet. This will be the company’s first factory in the United States. Fabrice Brégier, the chief executive of Airbus, said, “This is the right move at the right time and in the right place for Airbus. With this step, we will be the only genuine global player in the aerospace industry.”
Airbus, a European airplane maker, seems to be moving into the home market of its biggest rival, Boeing. Discussions within Airbus and its parent company, European Aeronautic Defense & Space, concluded that U.S. airlines could be enticed to consider an A320 made in America over the Boeing 737. The move by Airbus is part of a long-term strategy aimed at doubling its share of the world’s largest market for 150-seat airplanes. Boeing’s 737 is currently the top-selling aircraft in that market.
Many U.S. airlines currently have large fleets of aging aircraft. The fleet of single-aisle planes in the U.S. is one of the world’s oldest, with an average age of 13 years compared with 8 years in Europe and 6 years in China. Airbus expects to be capable of delivering four planes a month to U.S. airline customers within five years.
Airbus and its parent company currently employ around 1,000 people in the United States, which includes 200 engineers at a technical center also located in Mobile. The A320 plant is expected to create around 1,000 new jobs. Alabama is providing Airbus with more than $100 million in tax breaks and incentives to support the project.
The company plans to build a plant capable of assembling 40 to 50 A320 jets a year by the end of 2017. The plant will build aircraft from prefabricated sections built at Airbus factories in Germany and France. The first A320 assemblies at the plant should begin in 2015.