By Andrea Rothman
TOULOUSE, France — Airbus is poised to announce plans for a commercial-jet assembly line in Alabama, its first in the United States, to meet demand as North American airlines renew their fleets, two people with knowledge of the plan said.
The proposal may be unveiled at the Farnborough air show, which starts July 9 in Britain, or even beforehand, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plan is confidential. The city of Mobile is the preferred site, though Toulouse, France-based Airbus has made no formal decision whether to go ahead with the line, one of the people said.
North America is the biggest market for short- to medium- haul aircraft such as Airbus’ A320, which competes with Boeing’s best-selling 737. With North American carriers needing to replace thousands of planes in coming years, Airbus would be able to tell buyers that its models are put together locally.
Airbus opened an engineering center in Alabama in 2007, ahead of two rounds of bidding for a new U.S. Air Force tanker contract that was ultimately lost to Chicago-based Boeing. Alabama has lured European manufacturers such as Daimler, which makes sports-utility vehicles in the state.
Stefan Schaffrath, a spokesman for Airbus in Toulouse, said the company has “nothing to announce at this point.” Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Bregier was quoted Wednesday by Spanish newspaper Economista as saying that the Alabama plant is one of “many ideas” Airbus is pursuing.
Win Hallett, president of the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, declined to comment today about Airbus’s plans.
The planemaker has three final assembly lines for civil single-aisle aircraft, in Hamburg, Toulouse, and Tianjin, China, which began production in 2009.