Boeing plans to deepen its involvement in the aircraft seats market through a new joint-venture (JV) with car seat maker Adient.
The JV will be called Adient Aerospace and have its operational headquarters, technology centre and initial production plant in Kaiserslautern, Germany, the pair said in a joint statement on Tuesday (US time).
Adient Aerospace will be 50.01 per cent owned by Adient and 49.99 per cent held by Boeing, and will address the aviation industry’s needs for more capacity in the seating category, superior quality and reliable on-time performance, the companies said.
“Seats have been a persistent challenge for our customers, the industry and Boeing, and we are taking action to help address constraints in the market,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief financial officer and senior vice president of supply chain management, finance and business operations Kevin Schemm said.
Further, Adient Aerospace would “leverage Boeing’s industry leadership and deep understanding of customer needs and technical requirements, to provide a superior seating product for airlines and passengers around the world”.
.@Adient and @Boeing have announced the formation of Adient Aerospace, a joint venture that will develop, manufacture and sell a portfolio of seating products to airlines and aircraft leasing companies: https://t.co/gAtZFhvBHq pic.twitter.com/7XMpsXBfGC
— Adient (@Adient) January 16, 2018
Delays to seats and other cabin furnishings have been a source of frustration for both airlines and aircraft manufacturers, as Airbus chief operating officer and Commercial Aircraft president Fabrice Bregier noted as far back as June 2016.
“The passengers, it means you and me, and when they fly, especially long range, they expect to have toilets to have doors which close,” Bregier told reporters during the Airbus Innovation Days in Hamburg.
“We have a booming market because of the ramp up of both Airbus and Boeing, and at the same time they have a lot of retrofit business that they get on their own and they are understaffed in manufacturing engineering, in quality, in program management, in supply chain management,” he said.
“They just cannot continue like that. This message I will constantly repeat very vocally. I will progressively manage to get rid of the delinquent suppliers who are not catching up to the standards which are requested by their customers which are no longer the standards of aerospace of the ’70s or ’80s.”
The delays have led to airlines switching suppliers for seats, such as American Airlines’ decision to drop Zodiac Aerospace for its business-class seats for its Boeing 787-9 and 777-200 fleets in September 2015.
The aircraft seating market, which based on industry estimates was worth US$4.5 billion in 2017 and expected to rise to US$6 billion by 2026, has also experienced consolidation in 2017 when Rockwell Collins acquired B/E Aerospace and France-headquartered Safran bought Zodiac Aerospace.
Airbus too is involved in seat manufacturing through its wholly-owned unit Stelia Aerospace, which in addition to seats also supplies pilot seats and aerostructures.
The European aerospace giant also has a recently established Airbus Interiors Services business, which aims to support airlines as they upgrade their cabins and offer tailored equipment and products.
Adient supplies seats and components for more that 25 million cars each year, representing one in three cars on the road around the world, according to its website. Further, the company said it has 237 manufacturing/assembly plants in 33 countries and supplies seats to all the leading car makers.
Chairman and chief executive of Adient Bruce McDonald said the company had a “strong set of transferable competencies that will offer a unique opportunity to create value for our company and for Boeing, our shareholders and the broader commercial aircraft market”.
“To enhance the customer experience for passengers, airlines and commercial airplane manufacturers, we will apply our unmatched expertise for comfort and craftsmanship along with our reputation for operational excellence,” McDonald said.
The Adient Aerospace joint-venture follows Boeing’s selection of LIFT by EnCore as its economy class seat supplier for its 737 MAX catalogue narrowbody.
EnCore is an existing supplier of cabin equipment for Boeing. The pair also partnered together to develop a 787 economy seat.