Interview: China essential in Airbus' plan, says COO
TIANJIN, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- Airbus cannot achieve the grand production ramp-up plan in coming years without the support of partners in China, said Alberto Gutiérrez, chief operating officer of the European aircraft manufacturer.
"I feel impressed and inspired about my visit to China. I was fully aware of China's achievements in infrastructure, connectivity, business, and development," said Gutiérrez in an interview with Xinhua during his recent visit to north China's Tianjin Municipality.
"However, it's one thing to hear about it from my team's briefings and read reports on my desk and another to witness firsthand the incredible progress China has made. The level of capability I've observed here goes beyond just attracting investors. It assures a promising future," he added.
The senior executive emphasized Tianjin's significance in aircraft delivery and customer relationships, underscoring the vital role played by the Airbus A320 Final Assembly Line Asia (FALA) in Tianjin within their global industrial system.
September 2023 commemorates the 15th anniversary of the final assembly line's inauguration in September 2008, a significant milestone for Airbus' inaugural assembly line outside of Europe.
"It is realistic to local consumption, and we can avoid the costs by moving aircraft parts from one place to another. The key is to get the local support on site," he said.
To this end, Airbus implements a "local for local" strategy and relies on the supply chain of China's aviation industry to support the development of Airbus in China.
According to the data from Airbus, the company has about 200 suppliers in China. The total value of industrial cooperation between Airbus and the Chinese aviation industry reached approximately 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2020.
Nowadays, the partnership between Airbus and its Chinese partners covers the entire industrial chain, including procurement, production, and installation of massive parts, aircraft final assembly and delivery, aircraft operation support, aviation service cooperation, and aircraft recycling.
Airbus also attaches great importance to competitiveness, sustainable development, and safety. "We are extremely happy with our supply chain in China," Gutiérrez said.
With the support of Chinese suppliers, Airbus has delivered more than 630 A320 family aircraft assembled at the FALA in Tianjin over the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, Airbus announced a global market forecast that more than 40,000 new aircraft will be needed worldwide by 2042, of which more than 9,000 will go to China. "It is giving us the confidence that China is the right place to be," he added. "We will remain as steady a player in the Chinese market as possible."
Moreover, Airbus is preparing to enhance the final assembly capacity for its A320 family aircraft, adding a second final assembly line in Tianjin, expected to be operational by the end of 2025.
By then, Airbus will have ten A320 family aircraft final assembly lines worldwide, including two in Tianjin, said Airbus.
"It will increase the number of units in Tianjin. China is in our plans to help us reach the global production rate of 75 A320 family aircraft per month by 2026," he said.
Gutiérrez believes that China has unique infrastructure, connectivity, business, and development advantages, which can further help Airbus expand its supply chain in China.
China's dedication to sustainable development also aligns with Airbus's goals. Airbus inked a deal with China National Aviation Fuel Group Limited to acquire 3,000 tonnes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) over the next two years, bolstering Airbus Tianjin's operational requirements.
Gutiérrez expressed Airbus' aspirations to foster deeper collaboration with Chinese partners in hydrogen energy and biofuels.
"As a foreign company, we've been developing in China since the 1980s. We are extremely confident. Our investment will keep going, and our business in China is also improving," Gutiérrez said, brimming with confidence.