Airbus's chief salesman has dismissed suggestions that the transition to the re-engined A320neo family will make the last of the current generation A320 models less desirable and impact their residual value performance.
In a video interview with Flightglobal for Airline Business's 2012 interactive special report on finance, Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy said that comparisons with the transition in the late 1990s from the Boeing 737-300/400/500 Classic to the 737NG were not valid: "An 'A320ceo' (current engine option) and an A320neo aren't the same as a Classic and an NG. A Classic to an NG was about a 90% change," he said.
"One of the greatest marketing jobs ever done by Boeing was with the FAA, convincing them it's a common type certificate. They changed just about everything...so that you couldn't as an airline take an NG and just smoothly integrate it side-by-side with a route system that was operating on Classics."
Leahy said that Airbus is "going to great pains" to make sure that the "A320ceo" and the A320neo are interchangeable. "You can integrate them, but one of course burns 15% less fuel than that other," he added. "You've got two airplanes that are interchangeable, side-by-side, that we think will be side-by-side for another 20 years."
Of the 1,470 A320 family aircraft ordered in 2011, more than 80% (1,226 units) were for the A320neo variants. The 2011 year-end backlog for the current engine option versions stood at 2,089 orders, which equates to around four years production at current rates. Deliveries of the initial A320neo models are due to begin in late 2015.
Despite last year's order surge for the re-engined A320, Leahy said that sales of the "A320ceo" have been "pretty good" and that it is demand for the current models that is driving Airbus's evaluation of a production rate increase.
"That rate 42/44 [A320s a month] decision is about the Ceo - today's airplane - not the Neo. We've got demand to go to rate 44 right now. What we're nervous about is the supply chain."