Bizjet Recovery Slow But Steady

By Raymond Jaworowski, Forecast International

The business jet market is currently in the early stages of recovery. This recovery got underway in 2013, when annual business jet production registered a slight increase after having declined for four consecutive years from 2009 through 2012.

The recovery appears poised to strengthen in the next few years. Most market indicators are positive. Economic growth is continuing, however sluggishly. Corporate profits are strong. Orders for new business jets are rising, and order backlogs at manufacturers have stabilized. The inventory of used aircraft for sale is declining. Flight activity is increasing.

To some extent, though, the business jet sector continues to be a tale of two markets. Demand is quite strong in the upper tiers of the sector, from the super mid-size class up through the long-range segment. In the medium jet class, the picture is a bit mixed but is nevertheless improving. However, in the lighter categories, demand is still somewhat weak.

The market for lighter jets is largely concentrated in North America, the biggest geographic market for business jets but a heavily saturated market as well. While economic improvement in the U.S. has been slow, corporate profits have been robust, allowing businesses to accumulate large reserves of cash. Uncertainty over economic and political conditions, though, has made many of these businesses hesitant to make large capital acquisitions such as aircraft purchases.

The key to unlocking this latent demand in the North American market is continued economic improvement. This should serve to strengthen business confidence and unlock corporate coffers. Greater transparency concerning government intentions regarding taxation and regulations would further boost business confidence.

The business jet market is strong in most other regions of the world, with Europe being a significant exception. But even in Europe, the outlook is improving, as the worst of the region’s recent sovereign debt crisis appears to be over.

Meanwhile, as they have traditionally done, business jet manufacturers used the recent market downturn (and the immediate aftermath) to launch several new models. Each of the Big Five established players has at least one new model in design and development.

The recovery in the business jet market is likely to be gradual and measured in its pace: a solid, if unspectacular, recovery. We do not expect the 2008 production level of 1,314 business jets to be reached in any year of the 2014-2023 forecast period.

Forecast International projects that a total of 9,634 business jets will be produced in the 20-year period from 2014 through 2023. The value of this production is estimated at $255 billion in constant 2014 U.S. dollars.

Production is forecast to total 719 units in 2014, and to steadily increase to 1,136 units by 2020. A two-year cyclical downturn in production is anticipated for the 2021-2022 timeframe, before build rates rebound in 2023.

During the forecast period, the top three manufacturers in unit production are projected to be Cessna, Bombardier, and Embraer. Cessna is forecast to produce 2,363 business jets, representing 24.5 percent of the market.

Bombardier is expected to build 2,075 business jets during the forecast period, for a market share of 21.5 percent. Embraer is third, with production of 1,732 aircraft and a share of 18 percent.

Fourth, fifth, and sixth places are taken by Gulfstream, Dassault, and Honda, respectively.

When the market is calculated in terms of monetary value, the manufacturers of the larger, high-value business jet types rise to the top of the rankings. In production value, Gulfstream takes the top spot with $74.7 billion worth of production, a share of 29.3 percent. In second place is Bombardier, with $69.7 billion worth of production and a 27.3 percent share. Dassault is third with a 17.4 percent market share on production worth $44.5 billion. Cessna, Embraer, and Boeing take the next three spots.

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