At a turning point in the development of , its leaders determined that the organization had become more than a loose consortium known as “groupement d'interet economique” (GIE), and Airbus was transformed into a proper company (“societe anonyme,” or S.A.) in the immediate aftermath of the formal launch decision in 2001.
Franco-Italian turboprop manufacturermay soon undergo this transformation, too, for similar reasons. ATR is lobbying its shareholders to build a 90-seat aircraft, but to afford the project, the company must resolve inefficiencies in its structure.
ATR is a joint venture of the Airbus Group and, which are also its most important suppliers: Wings for the and 42 are built at Airbus Group subsidiary Sogerma in Bordeaux, France; the fuselage and tailplane come from Alenia in Naples. As Airbus learned in the 1990s, interests often do not align when shareholders are suppliers. Suppliers want maximum revenue per unit delivered, while shareholders want minimum cost.
Those conflicting interests could be mitigated in a new structure, and so an ATR official says it is “taking a look at the possibility” of creating an actual company. Management has to be cautious in its wording because it needs shareholder approval for the move. It also is not clear whether ATR would take on assembly facilities from Sogerma and Alenia or continue to work with them on a redefined basis.
Although the proposed change in legal status may contribute to more efficient day-to-day management, the now significantly delayed decision to launch a 90-seat turboprop will still be a tough call. The Airbus Group and Alenia would have to approve it and support the estimated $1.5 billion development partially with their own funding. Alenia has favored going ahead with the project despite this, but the Airbus Group has been hesitant because of its own large development commitments. No quick decision is expected.
Supplier issues also caused ATR to deliver fewer aircraft in 2013, six short of the targeted 80. It plans to build at least 80 aircraft this year, compared to just 54 in 2011 and 64 in 2012. Smaller suppliers have struggled to keep up with the steep production ramp-up, ATR says, because they also work for Airbus or. ATR sent teams to assist suppliers in the most critical cases, but it is now convinced that the worst issues are behind it.