* Previous 2013 goal was more than 800 jets
* European jetmaker battles to regain lead from Boeing
* Airbus plans regional version of A330 best-seller
By Tim Hepher
TOULOUSE, France, July 19 European jetmaker
Airbus has raised its order target for 2013 to more
than 1,000 aircraft, compared with a previous goal of over 800,
sales chief John Leahy told Reuters on Friday.
The new target puts Airbus on course to beat its 2012 gross
order tally of 914 aircraft, Leahy said on the sidelines of an
event to mark the 1,000th delivery of an Airbus A330 aircraft.
Airbus is locked in a battle to regain leadership of the
$100 billion annual jet market after arch-rival Boeing
grabbed the top spot in both orders and deliveries last year.
So far it is Boeing that is winning this year's order race
after reporting 859 gross orders between Jan. 1 and mid-July,
compared with an Airbus total of 758 in the first half.
But Airbus has a buffer of more than 100 orders that have
been announced but not yet confirmed, and some industry sources
say the amount of potential business in the pipeline suggests
Airbus could quietly aim for closer to 1,200 orders for 2013.
Boeing has also been hit recently by fresh problems with its
new 787 Dreamliner jet, which was grounded earlier this year
after the overheating of lithium-ion back-up batteries and was
hit earlier this month by a blaze on an aircraft in London.
Driven by emerging markets, commercial aerospace demand has
been remarkably strong in the past 2-3 years, providing a haven
for investors in a shaky global economy and prompting Airbus
parent EADS to consider rebranding itself as Airbus Group.
Leahy said there were around half a dozen major campaigns in
progress for the A330 passenger jet, which competes with
Boeing's newer 787 Dreamliner for sales of 250-300 seat planes.
Airbus is producing the twin-engined passenger plane at a
record 10 a month, but its undelivered backlog is equivalent to
2-3 years of production, which is less than some models.
Leahy said the company would keep producing the A330 beyond
2020 but dampened expectations that it would carry out tentative
plans to increase production to 11 a month any time soon.
Airbus expects to keep producing 10 aircraft a month through
2015 at least, Leahy said.
Like its U.S. rival, European planemaker Airbus has invested
heavily in carbon-composite technology to reduce weight and cut
down fuel costs for its next model, the A350, but is also keen
to prolong a renaissance for its 20-year-old A330.
Airbus delivered its 1,000th A330 passenger jet to Hong
Kong's Cathay Pacific in Toulouse on Friday.
It is the first European jet to enter the Millennium Club of
wide-body passenger jets that have notched up over a thousand
deliveries alongside Boeing's 747, 767 and 777.
Airbus says the plane is reliable and popular with lessors
in a downturn when buyers are less willing to take risks.
But Boeing officials claim the A330's main selling point is
its availability compared with the delayed 787 Dreamliner and
say it will inevitably be overtaken by the more modern jet.
Leahy said Airbus was working on a regional version of the
A330 designed for shorter trips in high-density markets like
Southeast Asia, mirroring plans for a similar regional version
for the A350 first reported by Reuters last month.
A decision on whether to develop the new A330 version is
expected before the end of the year, Leahy said.