July 3 - Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier hopes to double U.S. market share for the European planemaker by building a U.S. factory on Boeing’s home turf, threatening to open up a new chapter in a bitter trans-Atlantic rivalry. Conway G. Gittens reports.
European plane maker Airbus has landed in Alabama, the southern U.S. state with one of the toughest immigration laws.. taking a dig at Boeing with plans to build the Airbus A320 in its rival's backyard. The $600 million investment, Airbus' first factory on U.S. soil, is aimed at doubling market share within five years, says Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier. SOUNDBITE: AIRBUS CEO FABRICE BREGIER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "This is a strategic move again and so we do it for a very long term. But we will come upon this market with a re-engineered version of the 320, 320neo, which is by far the best-seller in the aircraft industry. And the U.S. airlines need this product, so being U.S.-made is clearly an advantage and I believe that we will achieve something close to 50 percent market share, meaning the market share we enjoy in the rest of the world. There is no reason to be below that." But why Alabama? SOUNDBITE: AIRBUS CEO FABRICE BREGIER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We selected Mobile, Alabama, because we enjoy a long relationship with them. We have a design office here. I have around me more than two hundred engineers working for Airbus, and we have appropriate infrastructures, we have a big airfield, we have a port, and we have a community, who is behind us, who supports, who welcomes us." Foreign auto companies have already set up shop. Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz and Honda have manufacturing plants in the state. The University of Alabama says those three employers employ a total of 11,000 workers, but the economic impact is even greater. Each position can translate to up to five other jobs when you add in suppliers and vendors who set up shop nearby, according to the University. That's one reason why at 7.4 percent, Alabama has the lowest unemployment rate of its bordering neighbors Georgia, Mississippi, Florida and Tennessee, and a jobless rate, which is lower than the national average of 8.2 percent. The creation of the plant is expected to generate up to 1,000 jobs. Conway Gittens, Reuters