Airbus announces Mobile factory to assemble A320neos

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Airbus has made it official: A320neos will be assembled in Mobile, Alabama.

The fourth final assembly line to support A320 production will add 1,000 jobs to the local economy and provide Airbus with more production capacity in the heart of a strategic market.

"The time is right for Airbus to expand in America," says Fabrice Brégier, Airbus chief executive, speaking making the announcement at the Mobile Convention Center. "The US is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world - with a projected need for 4,600 aircraft over the next 20 years - and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers. Mobile is now becoming part of Airbus' global production network, joining our successful and growing assembly lines in Hamburg, Toulouse and Tianjin."

The highly anticipated announcement ends several days of speculation about the possible scale and capacity of the new factory.

Construction of the final assembly line will begin in summer 2013, says Airbus. Aircraft assembly will start in 2015, with first deliveries from the site commencing in 2016.

The A320neo is scheduled to enter into service in late 2015.

Airbus anticipates the Mobile facility will produce between 40 and 50 aircraft each year by 2018, a monthly rate of between three and four aircraft.

The factory will be located adjacent to an existing Airbus engineering centre at the Brookley Aeroplex, which borders Mobile Bay.

The site was originally part of Airbus's lost bid to assemble A330-200s and convert them into tankers for the US Air Force. Airbus also had proposed building an A320 final assembly line, but had conditioned the offer on winning the tanker proposal.

Eighteen months after Boeing won the tanker contract, surging demand for the A320 has forced Airbus to look for more production capacity in regions with lower costs than Europe.

The A320 has accumulated an order backlog greater than 2,000 aircraft, with more than 1,400 orders hauled in by the re-engined A320neo family launched in December 2010.

Airbus is studying possibilities to increase production beyond 42 per month at three existing factories in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Tianjin, China.

At present, Tianjin produces three aircraft per month, Toulouse 15 and Hamburg 22. In the fourth quarter, when total production rises to 42 per month, Tianjin and Hamburg will each build an additional aircraft per month.

The US has become a major source of demand for the A320neo, with Virgin America as the type's launch customer. American Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines and JetBlue Airways have also ordered the aircraft. Airbus also has a number of Latin American customers for the Neo, including Volaris, AviancaTaca and LAN, however the airframer says Mobile will only produce aircraft for the US and Canadian markets.