Airbus opens first plant outside Europe
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Airbus inaugurated its first assembly plant outside Europe in China Sunday. The company expects the first made-in-China A320 to roll off the line next year.
European aircraft giant Airbus is expecting a "large order" from Chinese airlines by early 2009, the company's chief executive officer Tom Enders said here Sunday.
The Chinese aviation market "next year will still see strong growth and we are expecting another large order -- maybe before the end of the year or Chinese New Year," Enders said at the opening of a new Airbus assembly line.
Airbus has already signed memorandums of understanding with Chinese carriers for 280 aircraft, Enders said at the inauguration, which was attended by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
The Airbus plant in the Chinese port city of Tianjin is the firm's first outside Europe and gives Airbus a foothold in a market hungry for new planes and hotly contested by its US rival Boeing.
Boeing makes aircraft components in China but has no assembly lines outside the United States.
Enders said he hoped the plant -- where the A320 jet, the group's family of single-aisle airliners, will be built -- would be a "springboard for future development for Airbus in China and the region."
China's aviation market, the second largest in the world, currently accounts for 15 percent of Airbus sales.
The European firm is counting on continued growth in the huge market, with the world's most populous nation expected to need about 2,800 passenger and cargo planes over the next 20 years -- at a cost of around 330 billion dollars.
By 2011, the Tianjin site -- located about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of the capital Beijing -- will employ 600 people.
It now hosts 100 Europeans and 290 Chinese, many of them trained by English-speaking German and French colleagues in Hamburg and Toulouse.