Bombardier needs to be more aggressive in selling its CSeries if the new jet is to gain wider market acceptance, says Air Lease Corp. CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy.

“You might have a great product, but if you don’t sell it…it’s going to handicap you for the lifetime of the program,” the veteran aircraft lessor said during a panel at the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference this week in Phoenix.

Bombardier has 138 firm orders from seven customers for the 110-130-seat jet, which is scheduled to begin deliveries in late 2013 and will be equipped with the Pratt & Whitney PW1500G geared turbofan. But critics note the program has yet to sign up a marquee U.S. airline as a customer. Even the CEO of the CSeries’ biggest customer, Republic Airways, has expressed concerns about the number of orders for the jet.

Udvar-Hazy insinuated that the Canadian airframer needs to be more aggressive in discounting the jet to undercut the appeal of Airbus’s A320NEO and the Boeing 737 MAX, which will also be equipped with next-generation engines. “They’ve got to make some sacrifices short term for the long-term benefit of the program,” he said. “I think they really need to be aggressive… Without that, the program is not going to get the [momentum] it needs to be competitive with Boeing and Airbus.”

Bombardier President and CEO Pierre Beaudoin recently dismissed talk that the program is running behind in sales. He notes that orders, options and purchase rights have topped 300. “When you compare apples to apples, we have outsold competitors in the below-150-seat category and our order trajectory is as good as we want and need it to be,” he said in a speech last month.

And another lessor who sat with Udvar-Hazy on the ISTAT panel defended the program. “I’m very impressed with the CSeries and I sympathize with their plight,” said Raymond Sisson, president and CEO of AWAS. He argued that Bombardier is putting an advanced technology aircraft into a market space that no other air framer has optimized. “I think there are a lot of regional jet operations who should be moving into the 110-140-seat segment,” Sisson said. “I’m not as negative on their inability to sell it.”