Proposed Airbus CSeries Mobile plant puts Alabama at heart of Boeing-Airbus rivalry
Airbus figures show no demand for the A318 and relatively little for the A319. A variety of reports suggest that Boeing's forthcoming 737 MAX 7 isn't getting a warm reception, either...
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By Lawrence Specker
The jet that Airbus and Bombardier plan to build in coastal Alabama isn't a fighter. But to hear some industry sources tell it, it'll be at the center of a coming battle royal.
Airbus and Boeing are so dominant in the commercial jetliner market that they're often referred to as a duopoly. Theirs is a clash of titans, and Mobile stands to be in the thick of it as a new front takes shape over the next few years. It may involve smaller jets, but there's nothing small about the stakes.
The playing field is the market for single-aisle jets that seat from 100 to 150 passengers. Lots of knowledgeable people think the demand is there to make it a lucrative segment. But airlines don't seem to want stubby versions of bigger jets. They're kind of like the car shopper who doesn't want to pay for the light-duty version of a big truck when all he really needs is a small truck.
Continuing that metaphor, the C Series jets that Airbus and Bombardier say they want to build in Mobile could be comparable to the Toyota Tacoma, the best-selling midsize pickup in the country last year, and one of the best-selling pickups overall. Or it could turn out to be more like the truckish Honda Ridgeline, generating a fraction as many sales despite some positive reviews.
Airbus and Boeing have had a healthy sales battle going for years in the category of midsize single-aisle jets, where the state of the art is Airbus' A320 family and Boeing's 737 MAX series.
Each airframe comes in a variety of lengths with different capacities, and seating capacity also varies for any specific model, depending on what the customer wants. But in general, the sweet spot for these jets ranges from 150 to a little over 200 passengers.