In a week that has seen the aviation news agenda dominated by Airbus opening a new A320 family production facility in Mobile, Alabama in order to grow its North American footprint, speculation that Boeing may build a factory in China solely for 737 completion and deliveries garnered considerably less attention.
According to the Seattle Times, which quoted a source close to the deal, the OEM is likely to make the announcement later this month when Chinese president Xi Jinping's visits Seattle, where he is also expected to announce new orders for Boeing aircraft.
Speculation suggests Boeing would use the facility to perform tasks such as installing interiors, painting of exteriors, flight tests and final delivery of the 737s which will continue to be built at Boeing main site in Renton, Washington.
Although yet to be confirmed, such a move by Boeing would be unsurprising based on the sheer size of the market opportunity China represents. Boeing has forecast that China will need more than 6,300 new aircraft over the next 20 years, with an overall value of $950bn…
The OEM was rather expectedly coy when questioned on the 737 matter earlier this week, responding: “To succeed in today’s competitive environment, Boeing is always looking for opportunities to support our growth plans and productivity improvements.”
But while Boeing hasn’t given much away in terms of its intentions, the manufacturer’s faith in the future of the Chinese market was confirmed last month by its vice-president of marketing for its commercial aircraft division Randy Tinseth, who said: “Despite the current volatility in China's financial market, we see strong growth in the country's aviation sector over the long term.”
While moves into a market with as much potential for growth as China appear inevitable, any pending announcement on Boeing taking some elements of 737 production to the country could prove very important in the long-term