Vive la différence! Business jet manufacturers go their own way

Alasdair Whyte

The business jet market is going through an unusual stage at the moment, with manufacturers taking very different approaches to each other.
The Pilatus PC-24 at NBAA 2013.
The Pilatus PC-24 at NBAA 2013.

When industries mature it often becomes difficult for buyers to differentiate between the main competitors. If you look at cars, most of the major automakers appear to have similar strategies. Similarly, in commercial aviation, the manufacturers of large aircraft are even harder to tell apart.

In the business jet market, we’re going through a different very stage at the moment (perhaps it is not a mature market), where manufacturers are taking varied approaches to building and selling aircraft.

On one side of the market you have Gulfstream, which is keen to control the whole sale process (particularly stopping owners from selling positions) and is happy to let its total order book fall as it delivers G650s; Bombardier is aggressively pursuing sales and is keen to get deals done; Dassault has completely repositioned with the launch of the Falcon 5X, showing it is happy to compete with itself as well as others; Embraer is focusing on offering a full family of jets; and Cessna is betting that the market for smaller aircraft will recover as it continues to invest in new products.

You also have new entrants like Honda – which has a good order book and is getting ready to deliver its first aircraft in 2015 – and Pilatus, which won’t start selling its exciting PC-24 until next year. Eclipse is also rejuvenated with the first deliveries of its Eclipse 550.

But while this is exciting for everyone in the industry, it is worth sparing a thought for customers. Not only do they have to choose from different aircraft, the way each manufacturer talks with them is also very different. It is another reason why buyers should think about using independent advisers when acquiring aircraft. Advisers who understand the cultural subtleties can help buyers get the best deal.

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