Credit crisis hampers Mitsubishi's MRJ sales effort

Tokyo
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The ongoing global credit crisis is hindering Mitsubishi Aircraft's attempts to market its new regional aircraft, with the company possibly having to reconsider its original aim of attracting a major lessor as one of the main early customers.

The company launched the 70-90-seat Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet in March, and the programme is Japan's attempt to return to the passenger aircraft production business after more than 30 years. The first MRJ is due to enter service in 2013 with All Nippon Airways, which ordered 15 aircraft with 10 options.

Mitsubishi has been in talks with several potential customers, with industry sources saying that the company is close to confirming a deal with at least one airline. The company, however, has been keen to get a lessor like International Lease Finance on board and has been in talks with several companies.

Talks, however, have stalled as leasing companies evaluate their financing options amid the ongoing global economic turmoil, which has led to a squeeze on the availability of credit. Further complicating ILFC's situation is the fact that the US government has effectively taken over its parent company, AIG, after it bailed out the insurance firm.

"It is getting a bit more difficult for Mitsubishi. The financial turmoil means that airlines are less willing to look too far ahead into the future and order aircraft now, while the lessors have to worry about the amount of credit that will be available for them. Some lessors may have financial institutions behind them, but now is the time to be cautious. The MRJ's marketing team has to work harder to sell the aircraft," says a source close to Mitsubishi.

Mitsubishi Aircraft is a joint venture between Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, car manufacturer Toyota Motor, and several Japanese trading houses. Boeing, Saab and Fuji Heavy Industries are other potential partners for the programme.

Pratt & Whitney's PW1000G GTF geared turbofan will power the aircraft, Rockwell Collins will provide its Pro Line Fusion avionics system, and Hamilton Sundstrand the electric power systems, air management system, auxiliary power unit, inert gas system, high-lift actuation system and fire and overheat protection system. Parker Aerospace will supply hydraulic systems, Nabtesco the flight-control system and Sumitomo Precision the landing gear.