Airbus Gives Boeing a Bombardier Wedgie

Sometimes Boeing gets a little too clever with its political maneuvering. Perhaps they can be forgiven since their primary rival Airbus is full of Machiavellian Europeans who are as adept at playing international commerce politics as any. Boeing’s acumen works in its favor when fights foreign competition for domestic military orders. But internationally it doesn’t always get its way. Nowhere has this been more true than Boeing’s fight against Bombardier over its C-series narrow body commercial aircraft.

Fresh off of winning a tariff fight against Bombardier’s C-series, granted by the U.S. government over dubious grounds of unfair competition (the C-series are more akin to the defunct 717 rather than the cash cow 737), Boeing was feeling pretty good about its prospects at continuing its death match against Airbus and their A320 and A330 variants. For a month. Then Airbus bought the C-series from Bombardier. For basically nothing.

That’s right–Airbus bought a 50.1% stake in the $6 billion C-series development for nothing more than a promise. What promise? The promise to build C-series aircraft at its Alabama-based production facilities. Whoa!

That’s right, Boeing. Check and mate. Because building the aircraft in Alabama neatly sidesteps the ridiculous 300% tariff you just obtained against Bombardier. In what is turning out to be a Pyrrhic victory, Boeing’s tariff forced the Canadian government to find a white knight, which turned out to be its biggest rival, which quickly increased its market share in the most profitable market segment for commercial aircraft–for nothing.

Don’t count Boeing out, because the leviathan is going to double down on its battle with Bombardier–you just watch. The how of it is what is going to make great international theater. Somebody tell Mills Lane to ring the bell–it’s Round 2. Let’s get it on!

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