"It was a collective decision that we had to make a big effort in not only the commercial area, but also in the industrial arena. We needed to substantially increase procurement from China and develop new ways we cooperate with Chinese industry," Barron recalls.
The dollar's decline has reinforced Airbus' strategy to find industrial partners in major countries such as China, Barron says.
Facing a weak US currency, Airbus has to reduce costs and subcontracting to international partners can reduce its exposure to the dollar.
And it will be another busy year for Airbus to increase its industrial activities in China.
China is expected to obtain the wing equipping work for the A320 production program, subject to competitive pricing, from Airbus by the end of 2009, Barron says. Airbus wings, produced in the country, will then be sent directly to the A320 final assembly line in Tianjin.
Xi'an Aircraft Co, a subsidiary of China Aviation Industry Corp I (AVIC I), last summer delivered the first A319 wing box made in China. The wing box, or main body of the wing, is the largest and most complicated Airbus aircraft component a Chinese company has ever made. China is also Airbus' only wing box manufacturer outside Europe.
But the wing box still has to be shipped back to an Airbus factory in Broughton in the UK for installation of moving parts and systems.
"It doesn't make much sense to ship the wing box from China all the way to the UK to have it equipped and then ship it back to Tianjin. The transport cost is higher than that cost of doing the equipping. We clearly want to do it in China," Barron says.
Airbus is now negotiating with AVIC I and by the middle of this year the two sides should reach an agreement on the wing equipping work, Barron says.
Airbus prefers the final equipping to be done right next to the A320 final assembly line in Tianjin, Barron says.
"When moveable surfaces are attached to the wing, they are rigged. If they are transported by land for 1,200 km, by the time they arrive in Tianjin, everything would be out of rigging," Barron adds.
Another big development is the A350XWB program to design the latest long-haul Airbus carrier. The Airbus (Beijing) Engineering Center, inaugurated in July 2005, will start the bulk of design work for the A350XWB program by the middle of this year, Barron says.
The center was set up to design 5 percent of the airframe of the A350XWB, which is due to enter service in 2013. It is 70 percent owned by Airbus, 5 percent held by AVIC I and 25 percent by AVIC II. It now employs 125 engineers, with the number scheduled to increase to 200 at the end of this year.
Airbus plans to allocate 5 percent of the A350XWB airframe to the Chinese aviation industry.
The work packages being proposed, subject to competitive pricing, will include a high proportion of composite parts, mainly moveable parts on the wing surfaces and the horizontal and vertical tails, flaps and rudders, Barron says, as well as some metal work and interior fittings.
(China Daily, February 26, 2008)