For the past several years, Bombardier (TSX: BBD.B ) has been working to develop its C Series aircraft. As one of few aircraft being launched with an entirely new frame, Bombardier is counting on the C Series to drive a large portion of the company's future growth. With growth as a goal, what's next for the C series, and will the company launched a large iteration of the aircraft?
Development and features
A key selling point of the C Series is the all-new ground-up design. Even as Boeing (NYSE: BA ) and Airbus, a subsidiary of European Aeronautic Defense and Space (NASDAQOTH: EADSY ) , have been improving the 737 and A320 with features that improve fuel economy and comfort, both aircraft are still based around decades old designs. With a total development cost estimated at nearly $4 billion, Bombardier has already invested a lot of time and money in the C Series and will want to make the most of the program.
Aerospace manufacturers frequently make multiple capacity iterations of the same aircraft as it not only saves on development costs, but airlines can also benefit from the interchangeability of certain parts. Boeing and Airbus have used this method to develop new versions of the 737, A320, and many other aircraft far faster and cheaper than if they were to design all-new models.
New versions of aircraft with increased passenger capacity are a common iteration seen across many Boeing and Airbus models. Even at launch, Bombardier is showing a larger capacity version of the CS100 called the CS300, but this could just be the start of the C Series' growth.
The manufacturer has already trademarked the names CS500 and CS900. While this is no guarantee that these planes will ever come to be (after all, trademarking a name is a lot cheaper than modifying a commercial airliner), this action shows that Bombardier is at least considering using these names.
As previously discussed, it's far more cost-efficient to stretch an existing model (especially one as newly developed as the C Series) than it is to develop an entirely new aircraft. Therefore, if Bombardier does want to make a near-term entrance into the larger aircraft market, it will almost certainly involve a stretched version of the C Series.
The first Boeing 737 aircraft were built in the late 1960s and are now out of production. Replacing them was the Next Generation series (737-600, 737-700, 737-800, 737-900) introduced in the late 1990s and early 2000s. More recently, Boeing has unveiled the 737MAX series (737 MAX 7, 737 MAX 8, 737 MAX 9) with its latest set of updates.
Airbus has built its narrow-body line around the A320, creating a larger group of planes known as the A320 family. The A318 and A319 are both smaller than the A320, and the A321 is a larger stretched version. Like Boeing, Airbus is launching updated versions of the family, as it shows off the new A320neo as the two largest commercial jetmakers fight for the narrowbody segment.
Based around industry trends, it would make sense for Bombardier to launch a CS500 and CS900. Many airlines benefit from the similarities between aircraft of the same family as it reduces maintenance costs and increases pilot flexibility. As such, having enough iterations to service a larger portion of the market is a major selling point for manufacturers and would be beneficial to Bombardier.
Investors shouldn't expect a Bombardier CS500 or CS900 to arrive soon, since Bombardier is still working on the launch of the CS100. With the larger CS300 expected to arrive after the CS100, the launch of the CS300 could be good timing for an announcement relating to a possible larger C Series iteration such as a CS500 or CS900.
With the amount of time and money Bombardier has put into the C Series program, the company obviously expects to get a lot out of it. The launch of larger stretched versions of existing models would help to boost the total returns of the program. That, along with the fact that Bombardier has already trademarked the names, leads me to believe there is a very good chance Bombardier will eventually launch a CS500 aircraft and, depending on how it's received by buyers, begin the development of an even larger CS900 aircraft.
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