Diehl and Thales intend to serve Airbus's airframer rivals and airline customers from the Laupheim plant, which they acquired from EADS on 1 October, Thales chief executive Denis Ranque has revealed.

Speaking at the announcement of Laupheim's rebranding as Diehl Aircabin, Ranque suggested that freedom to develop the customer base beyond Airbus was a "quid pro quo" for Airbus's policy of running strict competitions before it awards supply contracts.

He named Boeing among the customers that Diehl Aircabin would be targeting with integrated cabin systems, but acknowledged that landing Boeing business would "take time", as it could only follow "the renewal of generations of aircraft".

Thomas Diehl, chief executive of family-run German company Diehl Group, endorses Ranque's vision, asserting that new customers would strengthen Diehl Aircabin, to the benefit of Airbus.

He recalls that 15 years ago Diehl customer DASA raised questions over its involvement in the 777 programme, to which he had replied: "It's positive for you - Boeing only takes the best."

At its location, 110km (70 miles) south-east of Stuttgart, Diehl Aircabin intends to combine the in-flight entertainment capabilities of French parent Thales with Diehl Aerosystems' expertise in cabin control and lighting systems, to manufacture products that are lightweight, modular and customisable. Over a three-year period it will invest more than €100 million ($138 million) in developing new products for the A350 XWB programme, to which it is a tier-one supplier.

Other programmes served from Laupheim include Airbus's A380 and A400M, plus NH Industries' NH90 helicopter. Annual revenue, which totalled €240 million in 2007, is expected to rise 50% inside three years.

Diehl Aerosystems and Thales, which share ownership of Laupheim in a 51:49 ratio, refuse to reveal how much they had paid for it, saying they had yet to complete an inventory of stocks or evaluate the claims against Airbus for which responsibility had been assumed.

The transaction forms part of the Power8 restructuring programme, which targets annual savings of €2.1 billion by 2010, with the Power8+ extension intended to deliver a further €650 million by 2012. However, according to Airbus Germany chief executive Gerald Weber - also present at the event - Power8 is aimed "not primarily to lower costs", but to effect a "strategic reorientation" of Airbus, allowing it to focus on core competencies, such as research into new technologies.

Weber says that Power8 had achieved the €1 billion cost saving targeted in its first year and is on course for timely completion.

Weber also reveals that it is Airbus policy to denominate all future supply contracts in dollars to minimise exposure to a currency that remains weak against the euro. He says that such a policy is a necessity given that aircraft orders are typically denominated in dollars.

Meanwhile, he insists that Airbus is sticking to its latest statement about the A380's delivery schedule, , which commits it to 12 deliveries by the end of 2008 and 21 in 2009. "We're sticking to our bets," he says. "That's it."

Source: Flight International