Airbus Group SA, which manufactures planes used by a variety of airlines, especially in Europe and China, has opened a new plant in Mobile, Alabama–its first in the United States. According to CEO Tom Enders, the company isn’t worried about the economic downturn happening in China at the moment, because their big problem right now is actually increasing production.
Their goal is to be producing 50 narrow body jets each month by 2017. They currently produce 42 jets per month and are contemplating shooting for 60 per month, presumably after 2017, as they have a backlog of over 5,400 planes to produce.
The plant, which cost $600 million, sits on 116 acres, with another 116 acres nearby available for expansion, if needed. The Mobile plant is expected to be Airbus’s most efficient yet, which will be a boon for the company, especially with all those back orders. But more importantly, it gives them a foothold in the U.S. as a stateside manufacturer. That helps them compete with Boeing, and it will likely lead to more contracts with U.S.-based airlines. American Airlines Group already has an “extremely strong” relationship with Airbus, but according to chief Doug Parker, their having a plant in the States “doesn’t hurt.”
And if that Chinese economic downturn does hit them, despite China having recently placed an $11 billion order for dozens of planes, they can always fall back on military production. Having a plant in the States will give the company more credibility to bid for military contracts, if or when they decide to do so. Being in the South, specifically, would probably help with that, too.
So far, Airbus, which is based in France, already has a plant in China to produce jets for that market and has stated that, if they have to draw down production for any reason, they will do so across all their plants, instead of closing any of them.