Diehl Aviation is to establish a manufacturing site in Mexico as part of a plan to bring production closer to customers in the Americas, including Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer.

The German interiors specialist aims for the business to be operational by the second half of next year. It is not disclosing the location, but sister company Diehl Controls – which makes products for the electronics industry – has facilities in Queretaro in central Mexico.

Schuler credit Diehl Aviation

Source: Diehl Aviation

Diehl Aviation chief executive Joerg Schuler

The first items to be produced at the new site will be larger overhead luggage compartments for the Airbus A220 – branded Airspace XL bins – after Diehl won that contract last year. Airbus builds the former Bombardier airliner in Mirabel, Quebec, and Mobile, Alabama.

“We hope we can get additional work packages,” says chief executive Joerg Schuler, who adds that “our customers appreciate very much” the company’s efforts to establish manufacturing closer to their final assembly lines.

Diehl has small operations next to Boeing’s factories in Everett, Washington and Charleston, South Carolina, and a customer support centre in Alabama, but this would be its first fully-fledged production facility on the continent.

The move is part of a wider international strategy by the business, which was established when parent Diehl group bought Airbus’s former interiors plant in Laupheim, southern Germany, and a galley supplier in Hamburg.

The company is looking to later add a second factory in eastern Europe, possibly Romania. Its Nyirbator plant in Hungary, opened 13 years ago, and an engineering hub in Debrecen employ around 1,000 people.

“Our plans for eastern Europe are about a year behind Mexico,” says Schuler. “Our international strategy is taking shape.”

The Laupheim-based business is also looking to spread beyond its core narrowbody and widebody cabin markets, including into the emerging urban air mobility segment.

It is collaborating with electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) developers Archer, City Airbus, Lilium, and Volocopter on cabin design and interior components.

“This is a prime axis for our diversification,” says Schuler. “We are making a bet on the future. Each shipset may not be the highest volume, but the number of planned eVTOLs could make it a success.”

Diehl Aviation’s portfolio includes overhead bins, cabin lighting, galleys and lavatories. Airbus remains its biggest customer, responsible for some three-quarters of its sales.

Diehl will have a larger stand at the forthcooming Aircraft Interiors evernt than last year, with a sustainability message focusing on lightweight and recyclable materials.

It will also show its wellbeing zone concept for the Airbus A350-1000s Qantas will use on its Project Sunrise direct flights from Europe and New York to Sydney and Melbourne. It is a bar-like social area between the business and economy cabins, offering nutritious drinks and snacks.

Schuler says that recruitment problems have eased for Diehl – it previously struggled to bring back skilled workers to meet rising production targets after downsizing during the pandemic. However, he says that managing the company’s own supply chain is a “daily fight”.

“We are able to follow the Airbus ramp-up, but the effort is huge. We have a supply chain still suffering from the aftermath of Covid, and we are having to manage some of them very closely,” he adds. “Our supply base is still fragile. We are having to build buffers and increase stock.”

Growing Diehl’s aftermarket revenues is another priority for Schuler, who became chief executive in late 2022. Around 80% of the company’s sales come from line-fit contracts, but “upgrades and spares/repairs are starting to take up a higher share,” he says.

A spate of airlines returning A380s to service after grounding them during the pandemic with revamped cabins has led to several lucrative deals, says Schuler.