WASHINGTON (AP) — Airbus, headquartered in France, is pitching its value to the U.S. economy as it takes its battle for dominance in the global airplane market onto rival Boeing's home turf.
This week for the first time Airbus is holding its annual meeting with its suppliers from around the world in Washington instead of at home in Toulouse. It's the company's way of underscoring that 42 percent of its procurement spending — about $13 billion in 2012 — goes to U.S. companies.
Earlier this year, Airbus broke ground on a $600 million assembly plant for its popular A320 airliner in Mobile, Ala., the company's first such facility in the U.S. A poster at the company's offices only a few blocks from the White House promotes the A320 as made in America.
Airbus currently claims less than 20 percent of the U.S. commercial airplane market, but is aiming for 50 percent — roughly the same as its market share worldwide, Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier said in an interview Thursday.
"There is room to maneuver to do better in the United States," he said. "We care about this country, we have extremely good partners here, we are competitive and we want to grow with them."
Airbus is having some success with its campaign for the U.S. market, Bregier said, noting that Delta Air Lines and JetBlue have ordered A320s.
"This is first of all because of the quality of the product, but also because we are seen as a U.S. citizen and assembling our aircraft here in the United States," he said.
Boeing officials, however, scoff at Airbus' attempts to emphasize their value to the U.S. economy, noting that Boeing employees 160,000 workers across the country, about half of them involved in commercial airplanes and the rest mostly in the company's defense business.
"Their starting up of one very small plant in Mobile versus our 160,000 employees in the United States, it's a significant difference," said John Wojick, senior vice president, global sales & marketing, for Boeing Commercial Airplanes.