Airbus plans to deliver almost 100 aircraft in China next year, following a better-than-expected 2009 in the rapidly growing Chinese market.
The A320 final assembly line in Tianjin, opened in September 2008, has delivered nine aircraft to date and is on track to delivering the remaining two to Hainan Airlines subsidiary Deer Jet by year-end.
All nine aircraft have a dispatch reliability of 100% so far, says Airbus, which has always maintained that the Tianjin-made aircraft are of the same quality as those manufactured in Hamburg and Toulouse.
"We are cautiously optimistic for 2010. International and freight traffic has improved, and seems to have bottomed out," says Airbus China president Laurence Barron.
Airbus has delivered almost 80 aircraft this year and has scheduled almost 100 deliveries next year. More than 300 aircraft are on order in China, with the majority being A320 family aircraft.
The narrowbody jet will remain Airbus's priority in China, says Barron, who adds that the assembly line is expected to turn profitable by 2012. It is targeting to deliver four aircraft a month by the end of 2011.
"China has made up at least 15% of our sales worldwide. It's strategically important to us and we are happy with the results so far," says Barron.
Despite future competition in the narrowbody market from the Comac C919, which is planned to enter service in 2016, Airbus China says it is not worried.
"We love competition and don't see it as a threat, so bring it on," says Barron, who adds that Airbus spends $100 million a year to improve the A320, but will make no changes in response to the C919.
The airframer also forecasts having 200 A380s in China in the next 20 years, with potential for the double-decker jet to be used domestically.
Besides the Tianjin assembly line, Airbus is having 5% of the manufacturing work on the A350 XWB performed in China. It recently set up a logistics centre in Tianjin to manage the transport of goods for all Airbus projects in the country.
"We plan to have a bigger and bigger industrial footprint here. It's unrealistic to think you can sell hundreds of aircraft and do nothing in return," says Barron.