"Whether by accident or design, the Legacy 450 and 500 might be arriving at exactly the right moment," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with Virginia-based consultant Teal Group, about Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer's (ERJ 0.41%) new business jets. The company has just started deliveries of its much-anticipated Legacy 500 midsize business jet, and the smaller Legacy 450 is due to arrive next year.
After several years of waiting, the smaller business jet segment is finally showing signs of life, and Embraer is closing in. The company touts that it has put the technology of a $60 million aircraft into a $20 million plane. How far will these new planes carry Embraer's success? Let's find out.
New planes to help Embraer solidify its business jet segment
Embraer has made its presence felt in the business jet market, growing its global market share from 3% in 2008 to 18% in 2013. During the same period, the company's business jet revenue grew from $874 million to $1.6 billion. Profitability also improved: In 2009, the business jet segment yielded a 1% operating margin, which grew to a sizable 6% by 2013. These numbers indicate how crucial it is for Embraer to keep the growth momentum going, and launching new models will help the company do just that.
What sets the new Legacy jets apart?
The Legacy 450 lands in the light jet category: It can accommodate eight passengers, fly for 2,300 nautical miles, and carries a sticker price of $15.25 million. The Legacy 500 stands in the medium jet category, accommodates up to 10 passengers, can fly 3,000 nm, and carries a $20 million price tag. The tables below provide a comparison of the Legacy 450 and 500 jets with their peers.
The Legacy 450 and 500 have competitive flight ranges, speed, and passenger accommodations, but Embraer has more to offer: Both models come with advanced fly by-wire, or FBW, technology.
The technology uses electrical computer-monitors systems to control the aircraft's rudders and wing flaps. This is quite advanced compared with the age-old technology being used in peer jets in which rudders and flaps must be manually operated through manual flight controls. FBW brings in much more accuracy and safety in the aircraft's operations. It even restricts the jet from exceeding its design-based limitations, and thus reduces the risk of mishandling in an emergency. The technology is also available in the $65 million Gulfstream G650ER. Industry analysts believe this revolutionary technology will help the company pose stiff competition to its peers.
Both the jets have posh cabins, well-designed interiors, and state-of-the-art facilities. The Legacy 500 has the most spacious cabin and the largest windows in its peer class. The 12 windows are strategically placed to give each of the eight passengers a good view, and the remaining four windows are located adjacent to the foldable worktables.
An added attraction is that both the Legacy jets are completely new aircraft and not refreshed versions of older models. Brian Foley, a Sparta, N.J.-based aviation consultant, said Embraer will now benefit from the decision it took decades back to build planes from scratch, as buyers go for the latest and most-innovative products.
Embraer is introducing the new planes during an uptick in the smaller jet market, which is the company's key focus area. According to Foley's estimates, deliveries of medium and light jets increased by 20% in the first half of 2014. This is welcome news for plane makers, as the global recession took a heavy toll on these segments: shipments plunged 62% between 2008 and 2013.
By Embraer's own calculations, U.S. corporate profits are up 143% to $2.4 trillion from 2008, which could trigger a buying spree for business jets. The company also estimates that the worldwide population of high net worth individuals has reached 13.6 million, with $53 trillion of wealth in their hands.
Foolish last words
For its new Legacy jets, Embraer is offering excellent value for the money. The Brazilian company is a relatively new player in the business jet market, but has gained good traction in a short time. It is delivering planes that offer several best-in-class features at competitive prices, attracting buyers and helping Embraer grow its market share.