Bombardier’s latest effort to salvage its CSeries project involved trying to get Airbus to buy in. After competing against Boeing and Airbus and trying to capture the smaller mainline jet market away from those companies Bombardier is seeing limited sales and fewer new opportunities for such. The latest version of the story has the beleaguered Canadian company seeking cash from Airbus in exchange for a controlling stake in the project.
The CSeries project is delayed and over budget (not too surprising for a new type these days). It also has struggled to attract new orders despite offering great operational and cost spec’s and meeting or beating all of the promises based on testing so far. Still, orders have been short. Swiss will be the launch customer early in 2016, assuming certification is achieved later this year as expected. Swiss plans a mix of the CS100 and CS300 types to replace its aging regional European fleet.
But the challenges on the order front remain high. The CSeries aircraft would be mainline at any US-based airline so there are operating cost challenges on the staffing side. That raises plenty of questions regarding the customer of the current single largest open order for the type, Republic Airways. And they are relatively small for mainline jets, falling in to the ~120 passenger space which has been something of a gap in the market. Either that market does not really exist or it is being ignored by Boeing, Airbus and Embraer. Given the struggles Bombardier has seen in selling frames it is hard to believe that the market is strong.
Other sources for financing are also being pursued. One report had a Canadian pension/retirement fund looking at the possibility of investing. And I’m sure there are others as well. No takers yet – and no new orders despite a massive push at the Paris Air Show in June – leave the company teetering.
I’ve been inside the test aircraft a couple times now and they are very nice. The 2-3 layout with full size overhead bins is a great combination of capacity and comfort. And they are spectacularly quiet when flying (I’ve only experienced that from on the ground as they flew past, not on board). Still, it is hard to convince customers to sign on to a new product line. Maybe there will be a bump in orders after Swiss finally starts flying them and the data is validated in the real world. But that also may be too late to matter.
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