ATR is convinced that 30% of the demand for 3,000 turboprops over the next 20 years will be for larger aircraft, but is waiting for a "convergent" solution to extend its family to the 90-seat sector.
Chief executive Filippo Bagnato believes that the technology "bricks" are already in place at engine manufacturers Pratt & Whitney and General Electric to develop a family of powerplants to succeed the PW127.
ATR would retain the current high-wing design for the potential 92- to 94-seat airframe.
"But I need to understand how I can converge the product policy of the aircraft manufacturer with that of the engine manufacturer," says Bagnato. "That is paramount. The rest will follow."
The timeframe remains unclear, however. Bagnato says: "Too many developments have been launched without reasonable maturation."
He says that although a new aircraft would require a 15% saving in fuel burn to be cost-effective, the technology is available at both engine suppliers.
"I'm insisting on one conceptual point," says Bagnato. "Between performance and cost-effectiveness, the priority is cost-effectiveness, not spending money on speed. I don't want to get out of my sport. I don't believe pushing too much on speed will [increase competitiveness]."
The company is to deliver to Royal Air Maroc the first example of its latest -600-series aircraft family, an ATR 72-600, around June this year as the airframer prepares to ramp up production in 2012.
It delivered 51 aircraft in 2010, a rate which it considers typical, but Bagnato says this figure will be increased to 70 next year.
He is unconcerned that the current backlog at the manufacturer, 159 aircraft, is only double the planned output, saying he takes "comfort" in ATR securing a 65% share of turboprop orders last year against rival Bombardier.
A ramp-up in production would increase the manufacturer's turnover by one-third, from $1.35 billion to $1.8 billion in 2012. ATR secured orders for 80 aircraft in 2010 and is aiming for a similar level of 75-80 in 2011.
Deliveries for 2011 will include 11 of its -600 series, among them the first ATR 42-600, before the end of the year.