(Adds details, comments from Boeing)
TOKYO, June 12 Boeing Co said it will
retain Japanese companies such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Ltd, Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd and Fuji
Heavy Industries Ltd as key partners in its commercial
aircraft business, awarding them a 21 percent workshare of its
latest jetliner, the 777X.
Five Japanese companies will build fuselage sections,
bulkheads, landing gear and centre wing sections, and other
parts for the aircraft that is slated to go into service at the
end of the decade, Boeing said in a release on Thursday.
The workshare on the 777X is on a par with the 21 percent of
the 777 that Japanese firms have been fabricating since 1995,
and in line with what sources familiar with the plan told
Reuters in April.
The share, however, is lower than the 35 percent of the
carbon fibre 787 Dreamliner built in Japan, including the wings,
a level of participation that Japanese firms may struggle to win
in the future, industry analysts say.
After difficulties managing its extended 787 global supply
chain that delayed deliveries, Boeing is taking a more
conventional approach to building the 777X, which unlike the
all-carbon fibre Dreamliner will have a metal fuselage. The
wings will be made by Boeing in the United States.
Mitsubishi Heavy, according to sources who spoke to Reuters
last year, made a failed eleventh hour bid to win the wing
business when workers in the U.S. at first rejected a labour
deal that would have secured the build in Washington State.
Japan's government sees Boeing as crucial to building an
aerospace industry that the U.S. dismantled after World War II.
Boeing estimates that around 22,000 engineers in Japan, or 40
percent of nation's aerospace workforce, work on its jets.
Beginning with panels for the 747 jumbo, Japanese firms
secured their ties to Boeing in the 1980s with a 16 percent
share of the 767. That deepened further with their involvement
in the 777 a decade later.
As Japan emerged after World War II as Asia's powerhouse
economy and the region's biggest aviation market, those deep
industrial ties helped secure sales. It still dominates with an
80 percent market share.
That domination, however, is being challenged. Japan
Airlines last year rejected a 777X proposal by Boeing
and instead ordered 31 A350s from Airbus, its first purchase
from the European company. That prompted angst in Tokyo that
Boeing would look for suppliers elsewhere particularly in China
which is now the biggest market in the region for passenger
JAL's rival ANA Holdings helped ease that worry in
March when as part of a 70 plane order it bought a score of 777X
jets as well as six 777s and 14 787s. Boeing so far won 300
orders for the new plane
Although the workshare is on a par with the 777, the volume
of work may however be greater because Boeing plans set the pace
of output to more than the 8.3 777 it currently fabricates per
month, a source familiar with the plan told Reuters in April.
"We anticipate it to be at least the same as the 777," Ray
Conner, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said at a press
conference in Tokyo when asked about planned production levels.
(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Ryan