Bombardier C Series Set to Become Just Another Airbus After Deal

(Bloomberg) -- Airbus SE plans to cap its takeover of the Bombardier Inc. C Series jetliner by scrapping the Canadian plane’s 14-year-old branding, people familiar with the plan said.

Among the names under consideration for a plane in which Bombardier invested more than $6 billion is “A200,” according to the people, who asked not to be identified as no decision has been made. The designations A210 and A230 would be applied to the CS100 and CS300 variants, respectively.

Rebranding the jet, which would slot in below Airbus’s A320-family narrow-bodies, would help fold it into the European company’s lineup and provide some reassurance to potential buyers about its long-term future, the people said. The change is likely to be announced soon after the purchase of a controlling stake closes, potentially in time for the Farnborough Air Show in July.

The C Series branding was revealed at the Farnborough expo in 2004, where Bombardier said that it stood for “competitive, continental, connector.” The name also harked back to planemaker Canadair, which formed the core of Bombardier Aerospace following its acquisition in 1986, and hinted at the model’s aim of breaking the existing single-aisle duopoly, with “A” representing Airbus and “B” Boeing Co.

Toulouse, France-based Airbus is acquiring control of the C Series after the model struggled to attract sufficient orders amid concerns about its feasibility, resulting in cash injections from government backers. That in turn sparked complaints from Boeing that the plane had benefited from illegal aid, causing the U.S. to impose duties that threatened to kill off sales in the world’s biggest air-travel market. The tariffs were later blocked by a U.S. trade panel.

Supplier Talks

The “A200” designation would depart from Airbus’s practice of naming passenger jets based on the original A300 model -- which has reached A380 for the company’s superjumbo -- and would provide it with options should the C Series be used as a basis to develop new aircraft platforms.

C Series parts contracts will be reviewed once the deal closes with the aim of persuading suppliers to sweeten terms on the basis that Airbus’s scale and industrial clout are likely to swell orders and boost production volumes, Klaus Richter, the group’s procurement chief, said Wednesday at the Berlin Air Show.

“It’s no secret that the program today is not profitable,’’ Richter said. “The plane is too expensive. We’ll have a discussion with suppliers because it makes a big difference if you have 300 or 1,500 in your order book.”

The C Series had 348 firm orders as of Dec. 31, excluding a deal disclosed in November -- just weeks after the Airbus partnership was announced -- that ended an 18-month sales drought.

Customer interest in the C Series has increased exponentially since the Airbus accord was announced, Bombardier Chief Executive Officer Alain Bellemare said April 16. “All of a sudden, with the Airbus sales and marketing organization behind that, we have access to pretty much all airline customers around the world,” he said in Montreal, where the company is based.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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