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Originally published January 13, 2015 at 7:56 AM | Page modified January 15, 2015 at 1:10 PM

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Airbus’ 2014 sales tally shows Boeing is still No. 1

Boeing topped Airbus in 2014 airplane deliveries, holding onto its claim as the world’s No. 1 airplane maker. And though Airbus sold more jets, Boeing’s sales have a higher total dollar value.


Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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With the 2014 Airbus and Boeing final sales and delivery tallies now in, the U.S. manufacturer retains its title as the world’s No. 1 airplane maker.

Boeing built many more airplanes and hauled in much more valuable jet orders than its rival last year.

However, even as that outcome was finalized, the European jet maker made a move to win some competitive advantage in the future: It formally launched a longer-range version of its A321neo, threatening sales of the 737 MAX 9.

Data released Tuesday by Airbus in France confirmed the expected result: Boeing delivered substantially more airplanes than Airbus in 2014, rolling out 723 to 629 from its European rival.

For the third year running, Airbus sold slightly more jets, with 1,456 net orders to 1,432 for Boeing.

However, Boeing’s 2014 sales are skewed toward bigger, more expensive airplanes and so have a total dollar value about 45 percent higher than Airbus’ sales.

Airbus ended the year with 135 net new orders for widebody jets compared with Boeing’s 328.

In terms of list prices — which are much higher than the prices buyers actually pay — Boeing’s 2014 net sales were worth $233 billion while Airbus’s total net sales were valued at $175 billion.

Based on real-market pricing estimates by aircraft-valuation firm Avitas, Boeing's 2014 net orders are valued at about $115 billion, while Airbus’ are valued at about $79 billion.

In a news conference in Toulouse, Airbus chief Fabrice Brégier said 2014 was “an excellent year,” adding that his teams “not only delivered on, but exceeded their targets and commitments.”

Boeing, which announced its year-end sales and delivery data a week ago, issued a news release Tuesday savoring its claim to be “the world’s largest airplane manufacturer.”

“What the Boeing team achieved in 2014 is truly unprecedented, especially in the face of fierce competition,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner.

Deliveries

In jet deliveries, Boeing came out ahead for the third consecutive year, after nine straight years before that when Airbus built more jets.

The value of Boeing’s 2014 jet deliveries, based on actual market values provided by Avitas, was about $58 billion.

In comparison, Airbus’ jet deliveries were valued at about $40 billion.

Boeing’s advantage lay in rolling out many more widebody jets — especially 787s and 777s as well as 767s and 747s — than Airbus, which has only its A330s and a few of its largest model A380s in that big jet category.

Boeing handed over 238 widebodies to customers in 2014. Airbus delivered only 139, including 30 superjumbo A380s.

That means Boeing airplanes accounted for 63 percent of widebody deliveries.

In 2014 deliveries of the smaller, single-aisle jets, Boeing nearly matched Airbus, something it hasn’t done in a dozen years.

That’s because the 737 workforce in Renton reached unprecedented levels of productivity in 2014, ramping up to 42 jets per month.

Boeing delivered 485 of its single-aisle 737s, just shy of Airbus’ 490 deliveries of the rival A320s.

Sales edge

Will Boeing hold onto this 50-50 parity in the smaller-jet market?

Some in the industry believe Airbus is positioned better for the future in this segment, because despite the huge success of Boeing’s 737 MAX, the Airbus A320neo family is still outselling it.

The A320neo sales edge is most apparent in the largest model, where Boeing has only 286 firm orders for the 737 MAX 9 jet compared with Airbus’ 755 orders for the corresponding A321neo.

In Toulouse on Tuesday, Airbus ratcheted up the pressure by formally launching a long-range variant of the A321neo, with a commitment from Steven Udvar-Hazy — chief executive of Air Lease Corp. and the world’s most renowned airplane-market analyst — to take 30 more of this newest model.

“The longer-haul, single-aisle market is a lucrative one that the A321neo will now dominate,” Udvar-Hazy said in a statement.

Airbus is pitching this long-range A321 as a replacement for the out-of-production Boeing single-aisle 757 that some airlines use, for example, on North Atlantic routes between the U.S. East Coast and Europe.

With just over 1,000 Boeing 757s built — and the last one rolled out a decade ago — that’s a potentially substantial market.

In a teleconference with journalists Tuesday, Boeing’s marketing vice president, Randy Tinseth, dismissed that, saying only “50 to 60 757s are actually flying on these long-range markets today.”

“The thought of a 1,000-airplane market for an airplane of that size frankly is a little bit laughable,” Tinseth added.

757 replacement

Boeing sales chief John Wojick said the jet maker continues to study the 757 replacement market.

When the time is right, he said, Boeing will likely go with a new plane that is both larger and has a longer range than the 757 — in other words, a new plane category sized between the single-aisle 737 MAX 9 and the twin-aisle 787-8.

Scott Hamilton, the Issaquah-based founder of aviation analysis firm Leeham.net, said Tinseth’s dismissal of the long-range A321 misses the mark.

He said Airbus intends not only to replace 757s flying transatlantic routes, but to expand the market by offering the plane for such routes as Europe to Asia, Europe to the Middle East, and Australia to South Asia.

In addition, Hamilton said, any airline that chooses the A321 for some specific long-range route is likely to buy other models in the family, including the A320.

That way, he said, Boeing could lose important single-aisle orders to carriers including United and Delta.

He said Boeing needs to respond by thinking of an new plane that will replace not only the 757 but also the 737 MAX 9.

Boeing has sold 286 of the MAX 9 jet through the end of last year. In comparison, Airbus had sold 755 A321s.

“The sales figures for the MAX 9 are just not there,” said Hamilton. “The A321 is kicking ass.”

Boeing’s Wojick stuck to the good news from the 2014 data.

And after a year when Boeing beat Airbus handily in deliveries, but just lagged in new orders, he insisted that deliveries are what count.

The jet manufacturers get paid most of the price of an airplane on delivery. While orders indicate future potential deliveries, some will inevitably be canceled and never be delivered.

“Where the rubber really hits the road is when airplanes actually deliver,” Wojick said.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com



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