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PARIS — Airbus, the European plane maker, plans to build its first assembly line in the United States in Mobile, Ala., in an aggressive foray into the world’s largest market for single-aisle airplanes, people with knowledge of the plan said on Wednesday.
The plan calls for an investment of several hundred million dollars in a plant on Boeing’s home turf that could eventually assemble dozens of Airbus’s popular 150-seat A320 jets each year. Details are expected to be announced as early as Monday, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the plan was still confidential.
In taking the plunge into the United States, Airbus is betting that American airlines, many of which have large fleets of aging jets, will be enticed to consider an A320 that was “made in America” over Boeing’s competing 737. By assembling the planes with nonunion American workers, and in using dollars, Airbus also stands to reduce production costs.
Airbus will announce plans to construct a new factory in Mobile, Ala., as soon as Monday, according to a NY Times report.
Airbus would spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build their first manufacturing facility in the United States. The new plant could potentially churn out dozens of new A320 narrowbody airliners annually. Airbus currently builds about 40 A320s per month at factories in France and China.
Despite dominating the fleets of successful American upstarts such as JetBlue Airways and Virgin America, and holding about 50 percent market share worldwide, Airbus still holds only about a 20 percent market share in the hangars of US carriers overall, a fact partially blamed on the “Made in America advantage” enjoyed by Boeing. Airbus hopes that building jets in the US of A will convince some larger carriers, such as Delta and United, to renew their aging fleets with Airbus aircraft.
Airbus insists that there are conditions which would need to be met before it could consider a possible production line in the USA.
It says that "no final decision" has been taken regarding a potential final assembly line in Alabama - a proposal which has loosely been termed 'FALabama' and which would probably cater for the A320 and A320neo.
While Airbus already has a presence at Mobile, it says there are "conditions which would have to be met for such a [final assembly] concept to be implemented".
"This isn't the case right now," it adds, but declines to elaborate on the nature of the conditions.
Airbus has made it official: A320neos will be assembled in Mobile, Alabama.
The fourth final assembly line to support A320 production will add 1,000 jobs to the local economy and provide Airbus with more production capacity in the heart of a strategic market.
"The time is right for Airbus to expand in America," says Fabrice Brégier, Airbus chief executive, speaking making the announcement at the Mobile Convention Center. "The US is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world - with a projected need for 4,600 aircraft over the next 20 years - and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers. Mobile is now becoming part of Airbus' global production network, joining our successful and growing assembly lines in Hamburg, Toulouse and Tianjin."
The highly anticipated announcement ends several days of speculation about the possible scale and capacity of the new factory.
Construction of the final assembly line will begin in summer 2013, says Airbus. Aircraft assembly will start in 2015, with first deliveries from the site commencing in 2016.
The A320neo is scheduled to enter into service in late 2015.