Airbus says it remains committed to working with Japanese heavy industry despite confirmation last week by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (KHI) that it will stop producing Airbus parts in March, writes Aimee Turner.

KHI has been producing the fuselage sections for the Airbus A321 since the start of the programme in 1991 and its decision not to renew its sole Airbus contract is seen as being in line with Japanese airlines and manufacturers' shift to focus on US rival Boeing, whittling down further Airbus's 4% market share in Japan. The A321 work is being transferred to Korea Aerospace Industries, which earlier this year signed an $80 million contract with the European manufacturer.

"We've built up a great relationship with KHI. But in the current environment, with the strong international competition on this kind of work package, it was jointly agreed that it was not effective to extend the contract beyond its original term," says Airbus."We do however remain in discussion with the Japanese heavies with their great design and build expertise to work on value-added packages."

Japanese manufacturers decided in 2005 against submitting bids to be a supplier for the original A350, with Airbus admitting it had not convinced Fuji Heavy Industries, KHI and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) to join the programme as risk-sharing partners.

The three companies are building 35% of the Boeing 787 and claim they do not have the capacity to supply the A350. Embraer in June confirmed that it will be taking over some KHI work in the E-190 programme, while Bombardier in 2004 considered shifting production of Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 components from Japan to other Asian countries in a cost-cutting move it said would also help MHI free capacity for the 787.

Source: Flight International