It certainly wasn't evident from the main Airbus news conference that the company is on the defensive at the Paris Air Show. Boeing has won 58...
PARIS — It certainly wasn’t evident from the main Airbus news conference that the company is on the defensive at the Paris Air Show.
Boeing has won 58 percent of firm aircraft orders so far this year. Initial deliveries of the A380 are delayed up to six months. The A350 rival didn’t launch in Paris as expected. And a new chief executive cannot be appointed because of French and German shareholder differences over the management structure.
Yet Noël Forgeard — still the European plane maker’s chief executive until a successor can be agreed upon — was both entertaining and cocky as he led the company’s presentation.
Forgeard presented a tour de force of solid self-confidence, dismissing the competition from Boeing and minimizing his own company’s challenges.
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He acknowledged Boeing’s success with the 787 this year only in a backhanded way.
“After a slow start, this aircraft has gained momentum,” he said. “We hope our colleagues (at Boeing) enjoy this period. Because it’s over now.”
Forgeard insisted that his company’s A350 jet is now an equal competitor, “unbeatable in terms of fuel consumption and cash operating costs per seat.”
He said the aircraft would have commitments for between 110 and 120 airplanes by the end of the show, and 200 by year-end.
Forgeard said the delay in launching the A350, far from being evidence of any problem, was instead a gesture to provide more time to settle the U.S./Europe subsidy dispute.
With the market beginning to boom, Airbus plans to ramp up production to 30 single-aisle A320 airplanes and eight mid-size A330/A340 airplanes a month by next March, he said.
He portrayed the aircraft-subsidy case pending before the World Trade Organization, initiated by Boeing, as evidence of the “extreme nervousness” of his rival about the A350.
Another Airbus executive laid out the company’s conditions for a settlement of the trade dispute that include a demand that the A350 be excluded from any newly agreed-upon trade rules.
“The A350 meets great market success and will never be taken as hostage in the WTO affair,” Forgeard said.
“The ball is now in the American court,” he said.
Forgeard’s only concession to unpleasant reality was his determined refusal to comment on the ownership turmoil that has delayed the appointment of his successor. Forgeard is due to move over and take the reins of Airbus majority owner EADS just as soon as the French and German corporate shareholders can agree on his replacement.
He made clear he would take no questions at the news conference on the management turmoil that, going into the show, left Airbus without a replacement for him.
Asked about it anyway by one journalist, Forgeard archly replied: “Are you under the impression that Airbus does not have a CEO?”
“Until further notice,” he said, “I am in charge of Airbus.”
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963