Talk of ATR launching a new programme to extend the regional turboprop maker's range to a 100-seater has been formally brought to a close.
Leonardo, which has been at loggerheads for several years over the issue with 50:50 partner Airbus, has abandoned notions of a new programme in favour of investing in the existing ATR 42 and 72 models.
Detailing a 2018-2022 industrial plan aimed at restoring growth across Leonardo after a 2017 marked by a difficult environment for its helicopter division, chief executive Alessandro Profumo said ATR was a "good partnership with good products and good results", and that investment would target opportunities for the existing product generation.
Speaking to investment analysts and international press at the group's Vergiate helicopter factory, Profumo pointed to ATR's 75% share of the world turboprop market and the recent "significant" order win for a mix of ATR 42s and 72s that will bring it back into the US market via Florida-based Silver Airways. There is, he says, "still much room for growth... and they are our current focus". The existing range, he stresses, "is so successful, we have to cash in all we can".
While ATR has surged ahead of rival Bombardier to dominate the turboprop market, Leonardo and Airbus have publicly disagreed about extending the product range to 100 seats. Such a move would go beyond a stretch of the 70-seat ATR 72 and call for a new airframe. Airbus has shown no interest in such an investment, but Leonardo has gone as far as suggesting it was prepared to go it alone or take on a new partner.
Leonardo's enthusiasm for a solo effort cooled with Profumo's appointment last year. His predecessor, Mauro Moretti, seemed keen to press for a solution to the 100-seater go-or-no question, but Profumo has proved conservative. And, as he indicated to FlightGlobal last autumn, the industrial strategy unveiled in Vergiate on 30 January held no great surprises. Full-year 2018 financial results due for publication in March will be in line with expectations, and the next five years will be dedicated to sound execution of manufacturing and financial performance with a view to "steady, sustainable growth".
Meanwhile, Profumo indicates, Leonardo goes forward with confidence in its product strategy and a clear focus on winning profitable contracts in its three core businesses: aeronautics, helicopters and defence electronics. "We need," he says, "to set Leonardo up to win more often."