Manufacturer resists pressure to enter market and focuses on increasing profitability from existing programmes

Bombardier believes that a viable market for an all-new aircraft in the 100-seat category will not emerge until at least 2008 or 2009 and has no plans to move forward until a formal study is completed in 2005.

The Canadian manufacturer's ongoing study is focused on the feasibility of a 110- to 120-seat configuration that offers 15% to 20% greater efficiency, says CRJ700 programme director Jean Guy Blondin. Such a move would exploit a potential market gap between the 108-seat class Embraer 195 and the 124-seat Airbus A318.

The scope of the study also includes options for financing a development programme estimated to top C$2 billion ($1.5 billion), says Bombardier vice-president of marketing Barry MacKinnon. The company's previous studies into an all-new 100-seat family, dubbed BRJ-X, ended in September 2002, when the manufacturer decided to focus on stretched developments of its existing CRJ family.

Bombardier's slow consideration of the 100-seat market came under fire last month after Air Canada split a $5.4 billion order for 90 regional jets between the 93-seat Embraer 190LR and Bombardier's 50-seat and 74-seat CRJ models. Options under the contract could double orders for both manufacturers.

Air Canada's order is the first of four regional jet contracts expected by Star Alliance members, including Austrian Airlines, Lufthansa and Scandinavian Airlines, and due to be decided later this year. The group had conducted a combined evaluation of the regional jet offerings of Bombardier and Embraer.

The recent pressure has not shifted Bombardier's strategy. Chief executive Paul Tellier, who was appointed in late 2002 after Robert Brown resigned, is maintaining a short-term focus on deriving more profitability from existing programmes, rather than developing all-new aircraft, says MacKinnon.

Source: Flight International