Airbus Rebrands CSeries as A220 Family

by Douglas Royce, Senior Aerospace Analyst, Forecast International.

Airbus rebadged the Bombardier CSeries jet as the Airbus A220 after taking control of the program on July 1 under a new joint venture between the two manufacturers. The two new models in Airbus’ lineup, the A220-100 and A220-300, were formerly known as the CS100 and CS300, respectively.

The A220 family covers the 100- to 150-seat market and effectively brackets the top end of the regional jet market and the low end of the narrowbody airliner market. Eric Schulz, Airbus’ Chief Commercial Officer, says Airbus is enthusiastic about selling the A220. The big question is whether Airbus can double the projected market for the aircraft, as a Bombardier executive suggested it could at the time the deal was announced.

Airbus is highly skilled at selling and producing commercial aircraft, and the A220 is a technologically advanced airliner, but the 100- to 150-seat segment of the regional jet market isn’t very hot right now.

In the 100- to 120-seat range, Embraer blunted the attraction of the A220-100 by offering re-engined variants of the E190/195. Airbus argues that its hugely successful sales and support network, along with inclusion of the CSeries in the Airbus family, will allow it to outsell Embraer in the segment. But a new tie-up of Boeing and Embraer’s commercial aircraft division, if it goes ahead, will give Embraer’s new E-Jet E2 family the same boost in sales and marketing support. The involvement of Airbus has been widely viewed as a huge boost to the CSeries program, but now looks something like a wash in the existing rivalry between Bombardier and Embraer.

In the 120- to 149-seat segment, the low end of the narrowbody market, the A220-300 now competes against both Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 and Airbus’ own A319neo. This is a shrinking market. Airlines mostly want aircraft with 150 or more seats, not the smaller models. Production in the 100- to 149-seat segment averaged only 35 aircraft per year during 2013-2017, representing only a small percentage of the hundreds of narrowbody airliners produced each year. Even if the A220-300 dominates its competitors, it is only taking a bigger slice of a shrinking pie.

Our forecast sees production of the A220 family CSeries ramping up in the near term, increasing to over 70 aircraft per year in 2019 and 2020 in a kind of “bow wave” as the program delivers aircraft from a backlog built up over many years of development.  We expect to see Airbus secure a burst of new orders in the near term, but we believe that long-term production will stabilize at around 60-70 aircraft per year.

A lifelong aviation enthusiast, Douglas Royce is currently co-editor of four of Forecast International’s Market Intelligence Services:  Civil Aircraft Forecast, Military Aircraft Forecast, Rotorcraft Forecast, and Aviation Gas Turbine Forecast.  As such, he plays a key role in many important projects that involve market sizing and forecasting for various segments of the world aerospace industry, as well as demand for related systems.

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