Japan's top three manufacturers have so far rejected offers from Airbus of contract work on the planned A350 jets, citing their order commitments...
TOKYO — Japan’s top three manufacturers have so far rejected offers from Airbus of contract work on the planned A350 jets, citing their order commitments to rival Boeing, Airbus Chief Executive Gustav Humbert said Wednesday.
Airbus was still hopeful Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Fuji Heavy Industries and Kawasaki Heavy Industries may change their minds, he said at a seminar for executives at a Tokyo hotel. The Japanese manufacturers make components for Boeing planes — including the wing for the new 787 — and are heavily involved in the design of the aircraft as well.
The European aircraft maker will be talking with other smaller Japanese companies to try to draw their interest in a partnership, Humbert said. “We are open. We have left the door open,” he said.
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Airbus, while gaining the lead worldwide in aircraft deliveries the past couple years, has struggled in Japan, where manufacturers have a decades-long relationship with Boeing.
Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, controls 62 percent of the airplane market in Europe, 49 percent in America and 55 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, but only 4 percent of the Japanese market.
Neither Japan Airlines nor All Nippon Airways, Japan’s top carriers, have placed orders for the Airbus “superjumbo” A380, set for delivery late next year. “It is only in Japan we still have a challenge,” Humbert said.
The midsize A350, seats 253 passengers, while the double-decker A380 can carry 555 passengers. The A350, set to enter service in 2010, is designed to compete against Boeing’s 787.
Airbus has been hard at work recently to woo both Japanese airlines and manufacturers away from loyalty to Boeing. Earlier this year, Airbus appointed former U.S. trade negotiator Glen Fukushima to head Airbus Japan in an effort to strengthen its business there.
Getting Japan’s powerful manufacturers to work on jets is considered likely to give aircraft makers an edge in winning contracts with the nation’s airlines, although the government denies any pressure is placed on such contracts.
Twenty-one Japanese companies are doing work on the A380, but their involvement is not as great as the Japanese collaboration on Boeing aircraft. Mitsubishi Heavy, which is making cargo doors for the A380, is designing and building the wing for the 787 — the first time a company other than Boeing will do so.
Humbert said he spoke with officials at Mitsubishi, Fuji and Kawasaki earlier this week but was told they had “fully booked their capacity” for Boeing’s needs.
Fuji and Kawasaki declined comment. A Mitsubishi spokesman said the company remains interested in doing work for Airbus while maintaining good relations with Boeing to expand its business but declined comment on the A350 talks.