European aviation giant Airbus is likely to establish a final assembly line for single-aisle aircraft in China this year, Airbus said yesterday.
It is working with China's government departments and companies to conduct a feasibility study, Airbus President and Chief Executive Officer Gustav Humbert said in a release.
"If everything goes well, the company is expected to make the decision on building the assembly line plant in China in the middle of this year," Humbert said.
The result would be an Airbus-dominated joint venture with a planned production capacity of four single-aisle A320 series each month.
The A320 family, comprising A319s, A320s and A321s, are medium-range, single-aisle, twin-engine jets capable of carrying up to about 180 passengers. The aircraft have been the European company's most popular models since they entered service in 1988.
China has stated its ambitions to build large passenger jets by 2020 although it is still struggling to develop a market for domestically built jets of 70 to 90 seats.
China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), one of the nation's major aircraft manufacturers, declined to comment on the programme.
Currently, five affiliates of AVIC I and AVIC II are producing parts for Airbus aircraft.
As part of the wide-ranging accords signed by Premier Wen Jiabao during a visit to France in December, Airbus clinched an order of 150 A320 jets worth nearly US$10 billion.
Airbus also offered China a 5 percent stake in its A350 aircraft programme. The A350 is the company's response to Boeing's new generation 787 "Dreamliner" passenger jets.
"China boasts a vast aviation market, so intensifying partnership with China is of great significance," Humbert said.
China is acknowledged as the world's fastest-growing aviation market and is a major battleground for the world's two aerospace giants Boeing and Airbus.
Airbus' main focus this year is to have a greater presence in the marketplace with its aircraft by looking at all the elements of the market, including major, regional and start-ups, according to Laurence Barron, Airbus senior vice-president and Airbus China president.
He said Airbus hoped to have 50 percent of the market in China before 2013.
Boeing currently dominates the Chinese market with 67 percent, and Airbus holds 29 percent.
(China Daily January 24, 2006)