Airbus to build first U.S. aircraft plant: report
NEW YORK — European aircraft maker Airbus plans to build its first plant in the United States, moving into the world’s largest market for single-aisle planes, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Airbus plans to invest several hundred million dollars a plant in Mobile, Alabama, said the Times, citing people with knowledge of the plan.
The Mobile plant could eventually assemble dozens of Airbus’s popular 150-seat A320 jets each year, challenging the home market of its arch-rival Boeing, the newspaper said.
The Toulouse, France-based Airbus was expected to announce the details as early as Monday, according to the Times’ sources, the Times said.
Stefan Schaffrath, an Airbus spokesman, told the newspaper Wednesday that the company had “nothing to announce at this point.”
The Times said that Airbus is making a bet that US airlines, many of which are saddled with large fleets of aging jets, would be enticed to consider an A320 that was “made in America” over Boeing’s competing 737.
By doing the final assembly of the planes with non-union American workers, and in dollars, Airbus also stands to shave off significant production costs, it noted.
Airbus holds a 20 percent share of the US single-aisle plane market, while globally Airbus and Boeing are fairly neck-and-neck, the Times said.
But opening an American factory “could raise eyebrows in European capitals and among labor unions — particularly in France,” the Times said.
The new government of President Francois Hollande has threatened to punish companies which move jobs overseas, hitting them with tax penalties and cutting state subsidies.
However, European governments, particularly France and Germany, are likely to be persuaded of the business case that it could eventually create as many as 10 new jobs in Europe — not only at Airbus, but also for its vast supplier network — for every one job created in Alabama, the Times was told by a source.
An agreement to build an assembly line in Mobile would cap a seven-year courtship between Alabama officials and European Aeronautic Defense and Space, Airbus’s parent company, over locating a major industrial facility in the state.
In 2005, EADS, which already has an engineering site in Mobile, had proposed building a $600 million assembly line for its larger A330 aircraft as part of a bid for a $35 billion US Air Force contract for aerial fueling tankers.
But that deal was ultimately awarded to Boeing last year.