Arch-rivals Airbus and Boeing were at the top of their game in 2013. In their battle to be the world’s top planemaker, both companies set industry and company records that suggest their competition will only intensify in the new year.
Boeing remained the world’s largest planemaker. But on Monday Airbus announced it regained the top spot in commercial orders, setting an industry record of new airplane orders in 2013: 1,619, lowered to a net 1,503 aircraft orders after adjusting for cancellations — an 80% rise from 2012. U.S.-based Boeing reported last week a company record 1,531 orders (1,355 net new commercial aircraft orders). Meanwhile, Boeing took the prize in the aircraft delivery rivalry with a company record of 648 dispensed jetliners in 2013, topping Airbus (with 626 deliveries) for the second year in a row and marking a 7.8% rise compared to a year earlier.
Both companies are now getting ready for a year in which analysts see an overall upbeat mood in the industry. Investors watch deliveries carefully, since they book the bulk of the revenue from airplane sales when the aircraft are handed over to customers. In the backlog race — unfilled commercial orders — Airbus took the lead with an industry record of 5,559 aircraft, valued at $809 billion, compared to Boeing’s 5,080. The global market for commercial planes will focus this year on producing the jets that they have sold and improving fuel-efficient models.
The market’s upbeat mood — “extremely bullish,” in the words of Airbus’ top executive Fabrice Bregier — and a growing industry will benefit both companies (they split the global market for commercial planes). As Airbus edges closer to its competitor Boeing for market share, the U.S. company is frightened by the idea that it could also lose much of the progress it has made (Boeing’s deliveries overtook those of Airbus in 2012 for the first time in 10 years).
For now most of the attention will be on the publication of a final report in March being prepared by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board on a battery fire aboard a Japan Airlines Boeing’s flagship 787 Dreamliner jet a year ago. Boeing’s results were fruitful even if deliveries were halted for four months after the incident. To stay in the game Airbus has work to do; the launch of the widely-expected A350 XWB the first in a family of super-efficient passenger planes Airbus has designed to go head-to-head with Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is a place to start.