Airbus Names Scherer As Commercial Aircraft CEO
Airbus is carving out its commercial aircraft business as a separate entity and has named sales chief Christian Scherer as the new unit’s CEO.
The move reverses a decision under previous Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders who had been heading both the group and the commercial aircraft division until 2019. Enders’ successor Guillaume Faury has since held both positions since he took over in April 2019.
Airbus said Sept. 26 that the split will allow Faury to focus more on overall strategy, the transformation to more sustainable flying, and dedicate more of his time to the other Airbus units.
Scherer, 61, is planned to take up his new position as CEO of Airbus Commercial Aircraft on Jan. 1, 2024. The move is a complex exercise. Airbus will not only have to nominate a management team to lead the subsidiary—Scherer will also have to propose what group units will be integrated into the commercial aircraft division.
Likewise, it is still unclear what the decision means for the various Airbus production facilities, many of which are exclusively dedicated to building commercial aircraft. The sites are currently organized under the umbrellas of the Airbus Group country organizations in France, Germany, and the UK. Another matter is which Airbus Commercial executives in addition to Scherer will be members of the group executive committee in the future.
Airbus said these issues need to be tackled over the next few months. The company was the only major OEM to have integrated the commercial aircraft business within the group function. Airbus will also have to decide who will replace Scherer as head of sales.
Scherer’s Airbus career spans decades. Having started as an intern in the contracts department in the early 1980s, he joined Airbus in 1984 as commercial contracts manager. Between 1987 and 1994, Scherer was Vice President Contracts for Airbus North America before returning to Toulouse to take over as Vice President Leasing Markets. From 2003, he was the deputy of sales chief John Leahy.
In the early 2010s, Scherer was one of the driving forces behind the launch of the A320neo family, which has since turned into the manufacturer’s most successful aircraft program.
Scherer later led sales of Airbus Defense—known as Cassidian at the time—beginning in 2012, and then in November 2016 became CEO of turboprop joint venture ATR. When Leahy retired, Airbus initially picked former Rolls-Royce executive Eric Schultz as his successor, but then reversed the decision only a year later, in September 2018, to promote Scherer to his current position of Chief Commercial Officer.
Through his decades in sales, Scherer has built a huge network of industry contacts and gained a reputation for being close to customers. However, his new position will require a different skill set and force him to become much more involved in managing the industrial side of the business, which has faced massive challenges for some years.
Airbus has embarked on a slow modernization of its production sites but is weighing those efforts against ambitious plans to boost production. A320neo family rates are to increase to 75 units per month by 2026 from 40-50 today while the A220 is to move to 14 from five and the A350 from five aircraft to nine per month by the end of 2025.
Airbus also has to manage its relationship with suppliers. Hold-ups on their part have led to frequent delivery delays ever since the industry began to emerge from the pandemic.
Scherer is also facing major strategy decisions. Industry sources expect Airbus to launch a stretched version of the A220 within the next two years, with entry-into-service before the end of the decade. At roughly 180 seats, the aircraft would compete with the 737-8 and the A320neo. Given the continuing quality and durability issues of the PW1100G, Airbus is expected to choose CFM International as a second engine manufacturer for the new A220 program in addition to Pratt & Whitney. CFM partners GE and Safran could use the A220 as an early application for some technologies they are developing for the RISE program to be introduced for larger aircraft by 2035 or later.
Faury has also indicated that Airbus is looking at launching an A320neo successor for the middle of the 2030s, a project that would have to be formally started still within Scherer’s term should Airbus want to stick to that schedule.