In a bid to revitalize flagging market sales, has launched a new version of its ACJ319 corporate jet with a simplified, modular concept that will shave millions of dollars off an airplane that usually lists for $87 million and will get aircraft into customers’ hands six to eight months sooner.
The new ACJ319 Elegance comes with a standard bathroom and galley at the front and a bedroom with ensuite bathroom at the rear. The whole length of cabin between those standard fixtures can be customized from a wide range of lounge, office, dining and conference modules defined by Airbus. "There are hundreds of combinations," says Airbus spokesman David Velupillai.
The concept was developed by the Airbus Corporate Jet Center (ACJC) completions outfit in Toulouse to appeal to customers who don’t want to spend time, money and effort customizing interiors when all they really need is a bathroom, a bedroom and a table at which to sit.
The modular approach will come in less than an "exotic" interior that can run to $25-$35 million. Airbus expects to sell the new Elegance for less than $80 million. At the same time, completion times will shorten. A typical customized ACJ could take up to 24 months before it is completed and ready for delivery. With the new Elegance, Airbus has a goal to bring that time down to 16 months. The first two deliveries likely will take a little longer – the first estimated at 20 months and the second at 18 months.
Another advantage, Airbus claims, is that modules can easily be changed later if the aircraft is refurbished or sold at a later date.
The idea of simplified, modular interiors for owners who want utility rather than opulence harks back to the AirbusElite, which was an attempt to drive down completion costs through standardization and industrialization of furniture and fittings.
Six Airbus ACJs were delivered worldwide last year, and Airbus has sold four since the last ABACE. But cancellations trimmed its net sales in 2013 to just one single-aisle ACJ aircraft versus three-based BBJs, for a market share of 25%.
Airbus earlier this year refocused marketing efforts for its corporate jets when it appointed Benoit Defforge as new managing director of ACJ sales. Defforge took the helm after steering the ACJC that designed Airbus’s newest corporate jet offering.
Airbus COO-Customers John Leahy at the time told reporters, "We’re going to revitalize that program over the next year or two and see if we can’t focus more on selling airplanes, rather than just doing interiors for airplanes."
Airbus views the Chinese market as a key region to help accomplish that goal. Of the 170 total ACJ sales, 20 are currently operating in China, says Velupillai. The market is so important that Airbus undertook a study of billionaire behaviors there.
The study focused on 250 billionaires based in China, along with the Middle East and Russia, and included interviews with numerous types of retailers that do business with them. Defforge notes that one of the themes that emerged was the differences in preferences, particularly regionally. While they don’t all follow a same pattern, "there are trends," he says. And one of those trends is that "they don’t all want flying palaces."