In what aviation experts are calling an aggressive and calculated move, Airbus has announced plans to take on rival Boeing head to head by opening up a plant on the American company's home turf.
Fabrice Bregier, Airbus Group's CEO, said the France based company will build a new $600 million, 300 acre plant in Mobile, Alabama, which will initially produce single-aisle planes. The move is just Airbus's second such expansion outside of Europe.
The experts say that considering Airbus at present only controls 20 percent of the U.S. market, opening up the factory is an aggressive yet very calculated move. The United States is the world's largest aerospace market and many of Airbus's big customers are U.S. based.
When fulfilled, American Airlines latest order with Airbus will see the company double its share in the U.S. market with Bregier announcing his company's aim is 50 percent of the U.S. market - a market that has historically has been controlled by Boeing.
"Our first U.S. facility has been years in the making," Bregier said "It is the most significant, game-changing incident in U.S. aerospace in years."
Aerospace strategy and aviation business development consultant Michel Merluzeau said "It’s all about location. It’s about where you do business, and how that property is going to grow over time."
The first two aeroplanes that will roll out of the Mobile plant aircraft are A321 jetliners, which Bregier said the company is betting on to take a large chunk of the Chicago-based Boeing's market share. The A321, which seats 200 passengers, is the bread and butter aircraft of transcontinental routes flown by major U.S. carriers Delta, JetBlue and American.
When asked by reporters if Airbus was planning a new mid-sized aircraft to take on Boeing's planned replacement for the 757 Bregier said "The aircraft exists already. You don’t need to reinvent it," referring to the A321.
There are plans to grow the initial 260 strong Mobile plant workforce to 1000 workers in concert with increasing output which is targeted at four aircraft per month by early 2018.
The man who will be overseeing product quality at Mobile, Timo Zaremba, said the planes and plant will be certified by regulators from Europe and not the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
"We’re producing on American ground a European product with American people," he said.