Bombardier names sales chief as demand stalls for CSeries plane

Tue Dec 3, 2013 1:49pm EST

Dec 3 (Reuters) - Canadian planemaker Bombardier Inc said on Tuesday that it replaced the head salesman for the slow-selling CSeries aircraft with an executive from its business jet division.

Bombardier said it was promoting Raymond Jones immediately to senior vice president of sales for commercial aircraft, replacing Chet Fuller, who will leave at year's end to pursue other opportunities.

"Clearly the (CSeries) sales have been pretty weak, so at some point you've got to try something different," said Neil Dihora, a Morningstar Inc analyst.

"They've got pretty awesome orders in the business jet side of the world, so let's see if he (Jones) can crack the nut on the commercial airline space."

Jones, a certified commercial pilot who spent 16 years in the U.K. Royal Air Force, has been selling Bombardier's business jets for the past decade. His international background and track record, notably with large fleet operators, will help open new markets, Bombardier said.

He replaces Fuller, a former U.S. Navy pilot and president at GE Aviation, who joined Bombardier in late 2010 to head commercial plane sales and marketing. The unit includes the CSeries along with turboprops and regional jets.

The CSeries, a $3.4 billion development program that brings Bombardier into competition with the lower-capacity planes built by industry giants Boeing Co and Airbus, has suffered from a lack of demand. Its last firm order was announced in June.

Bombardier has secured 177 firm orders for the mid-range jet, but says it will reach 300 by the time the first plane is put into commercial use.

The target date for entry into service is September 2014, but analysts are increasingly skeptical that Bombardier can meet an extremely aggressive 12-month testing schedule.

The company is expected to announce a further delay after saying in October that it was "evaluating the schedule" and would update the market in next few months. If this happens, it would mark the fourth delay and push the schedule more than nine months beyond initial estimates.

Shares of Bombardier fell 7 Canadian cents, or 1.5 percent, to C$4.72 on the Toronto Stock Exchange after the announcement on Tuesday. The stock, which traded above C$26 in late 2000, has dropped some 16 percent in the last year amid program delays.

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