Airbus loses 2007 orders war – but is there a PR truce?

I confess to being genuinely surprised by this, Airbus’ 2007 numbers are out and they’ve come in at 1,341 net orders versus Boeing’s previously announced 1,413. The gross figures are 1,458 for Airbus and 1,423 for Boeing – but presumably the detail that will shortly be available will show that all the jiggery-pokery with the A350 makes those numbers largely irrelevant. (I don’t have a lot of choice in confessing to my surprise, as my prediction is a matter of public record.)

For veterans of the end of year numbers game – and game it is – the really interesting thing is that Airbus is no longer playing.The Airbus press release, which normally helpfully provides the net market shares too, says nothing about that. (For the record, it’s Airbus 48.6% versus Boeing 51.4%.) They even did that when they lost last year. And for many years of course they could crow about it.

Boeing’s press release this year also says nothing about share. So I wonder, is the game over? Has a PR truce finally been called?

I know Boeing will say they never played the game anyway, and that’s sort-of true. But the reality is that they couldn’t walk away from it anymore than Airbus could. And in my experience any Boeing spokesman (and I suspect most execs) could quote the percentage from memory.

For the record, here’s the Airbus announcement:

AIRBUS 2007 RESULTS

2007 was another record year for the air transportation industry and for Airbus.

In 2007 Airbus delivered 453 aircraft, 19 more than in 2006, on time and to customer satisfaction. The deliveries include 367 A320 Family aircraft, six A300 Freighters, 79 A330/A340 aircraft, and the first all new eco-efficient A380 to Singapore Airlines. Entry into service of the A380 was smooth, with a very high technical dispatch reliability rate.

Airbus achieved 1,341 net orders valued at US$ 157.1 billion at catalogue prices (1,458 new gross orders valued at US $ 181.1 billion). They include 913 A320-Family aircraft, 405 A330/A340/A350s, and 23 A380s. This demonstrates the strong demand for Airbus aircraft, with all members of the product family doing extremely well. In particular the newly launched A350 XWB has achieved 292 new firm orders.

At the end of 2007, Airbus has a backlog of 3,421 aircraft. This represents about six years of production at steadily increasing production rates. Again, this is the highest backlog ever for the aviation industry.

Furthermore, the Airbus turn-around programme Power 8 exceeded its 2007 targets in its first year, delivering cost savings of more than 300 million Euros. Overhead-positions were reduced by 30 per cent – of the 10,000 positions targeted until 2010. In addition, Airbus has been successful in identifying preferred bidders and strong partners for six site-divestments in France, Germany and the UK. This allows capital investments, risks and benefits to develop new aircraft technologies to be shared, and the European manufacturer to concentrate on its core activities, i.e. to be essentially an aircraft architect and integrator.

“2007 was a challenging but also successful year for Airbus”, said Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders. “We were successful in the market and mastered the industrial challenges of the production ramp up, the timely delivery of the first A380, and the implementation of the Airbus Power 8 turn-around programme. 2008 will be as challenging on all fronts. But I am sure that, with the dedication of our people and all involved, we shall master them. On the commercial side, I anticipate that our order intake will be above our deliveries”.

In 2008, deliveries are scheduled to be above 470.

Airbus is an EADS company.

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