TOULOUSE- European plane manufacturer Airbus is moving forward with its plans to appoint a new head for its commercial aircraft division, essentially reestablishing a distinct unit for civil jetliners.
The list of potential candidates has expanded to encompass Christian Scherer, the current head of sales.
Airbus Eyes New Commercial Head
Insiders in the industry have indicated that a final decision regarding this restructuring is expected in the coming weeks. This development follows weeks of speculation, initially reported by Reuters in July.
Guillaume Faury, the Chief Executive, has been overseeing both the group’s executive role and the world’s largest civil aircraft manufacturing operation since assuming the top position in 2019.
However, various factors, such as global supply disruptions due to the pandemic, shifting geopolitical dynamics in the wake of the Ukraine conflict, and concerns about Europe’s space autonomy after delays in launcher projects have led to an increased set of strategic priorities for the French CEO in the past year.
Previously, Airbus Helicopters CEO Bruno Even had been suggested as a potential candidate for the top role in the planemaking division.
However, the scope of speculation has now expanded to include Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer, a seasoned professional within Airbus’ placemaking sector who has also held positions in the Defense division and managed the turboprop joint-venture ATR.
If selected, Scherer’s appointment would signal a significant degree of continuity within the company’s primary planemaking business, which constitutes a substantial portion of Airbus’s overall revenue.
Division of Roles
Discussions regarding the management structure of Airbus can be delicate due to a history of internal conflicts, particularly among past executives in similar roles, and the historical tensions between minority shareholders from France and Germany.
However, most industry experts assert that Airbus has evolved beyond being primarily politically motivated or susceptible to internal strife, thanks to a decade-long agreement to limit state interference.
Under the leadership of Guillaume Faury, governance concerns have waned. His tenure has been marked by efforts to address the surging demand for aircraft in the post-COVID era and a unified approach to accelerating industrial transformation and addressing concerns about carbon emissions.
In late July, analysts at Jefferies expressed approval for the potential division of roles within the company.
Christian Scherer, of German origin, has been credited with laying the groundwork for the highly successful A320neo and played a key role in negotiations for establishing an assembly line in the United States, as well as the acquisition of the A220 jet program from Canada’s Bombardier.
In the upcoming years, he will face significant strategic decisions, including whether to proceed with an A220 upgrade and prepare for the next generation of single-aisle aircraft.
However, analysts highlight that the immediate challenges are primarily industrial, including the target of achieving 720 deliveries this year. Additionally, Airbus must navigate a growing crisis at engine maker Pratt & Whitney, a critical supplier.
As part of a separate restructuring effort known as Project ATOM, the Airbus Defence & Space unit intends to merge Military Air Systems with FCAS, as reported by Reuters earlier this week.
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