The narrow-body build rate at the Tianjin plant east of Beijing will increase from the current four planes a month, Airbus Chief Operating Officer Fabrice Bregier said Tuesday during a visit to China with a trade delegation led by French President Emmanuel Macron. The tour failed to produce any new orders.
A French official separately confirmed that discussions are underway about an Airbus partnership with China on the A380 superjumbo, while saying nothing is yet ready for signing. The Toulouse-based company could hand over some interiors and finishing work if Beijing agrees to buy more of the slow-selling double-deckers, a person with knowledge of the discussions said Monday.
Airbus also agreed to expand its engineering capabilities and supply-chain in China, and to deepen cooperation on technical innovation. The Tianjin final assembly line, which opened in 2008 and has built more than 350 A320-series aircraft, will initially move to five planes a month by early 2019.
Group-wide, Airbus aims to produce 60 A320s a month by 2020, up from an average of 44 last year, across production lines in Toulouse, Hamburg and Mobile, Alabama, as well as China. Boosting output from Tianjin would better reflect the importance of local demand, with the factory building 50 planes in 2017 but China taking delivery a quarter of Airbus’s global total of about 700.
The absence of new aircraft orders during Macron’s trip will come as a disappointment for Airbus, though China Aircraft Leasing Group Holdings Ltd. has agreed to buy 75 airliners with a combined list price of at least $8 billion in the past two weeks,and during President Xi Jinping’s visit to Berlin in July the company secured commitments worth $22 billion.
While rival Boeing Co. trumpeted a $37 billion mega-sale to China following President Donald Trump’s first visit to the country in November, most of those aircraft turned out to be from previously announcement deals.
Airbus is meanwhile moving the president of its commercial aviation business in China, Eric Chen, to the role of chairman, people familiar with the matter said. He’ll be succeeded by George Xu in the post, which includes responsibility for sales, industrial partnerships and government affairs, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the plans aren’t yet public.