Airbus has named French engineer Guillaume Faury as its next CEO. Managing the potential fallout from Brexit will be his first challenge, but there are plenty of others too.
Faury will replace Tom Enders on April 10, 2019, the European airplane maker said Monday. His appointment answers one key question raised by a leadership shuffle announced late last year.
Before taking charge of Airbus’ Commercial Aircraft division in February 2018, Faury led the company’s helicopter business. He also did turns as a senior manager at Peugeot and Eurocopter.
Airbus (EADSF) has had a strong run this year, with its stock up 25% since January. But the company is facing challenges that will require the licensed flight test engineer to quickly get up to speed.
Airbus secured 1,109 aircraft orders in 2017, nearly 200 more than Boeing.
It now has nearly 7,400 aircraft orders pending, making the timely delivery of planes a top priority.
Problems with faulty Pratt & Whitney engines took Airbus planes out of service earlier this year and delayed engine production. Deliveries of the narrow-body A320neo slowed as a result.
Avoiding future delays will be key for the new CEO.
Tariffs and Brexit
Airbus has a complicated supply chain spanning several continents, which makes it vulnerable to escalating global trade tensions.
One big danger is Brexit. Airbus is headquartered in Toulouse, France, but it has roughly 15,000 employees and significant productions facilities in the United Kingdom.
If Britain crashes out of the European Union on March 29, 2019 without a deal on trading arrangements, Airbus has said the outcome would be “catastrophic” and threaten its future in the country.
Even an orderly Brexit could add some unwanted friction to its supply chain.
Stability at the top
Faury is taking over during a time of major management upheaval at Airbus.
Legendary sales chief John Leahy retired earlier this year, but the executive appointed to succeed him has already left the company. Christian Scherer was appointed to the job just last month, and Faury will need to ensure he sticks around.
Several other top mangers have departed Airbus, including former planemaking chief Fabrice Brégier. Longtime CFO Harald Wilhelm will leave the company in 2019.
Way off in the distance, Airbus is likely to come under pressure from one of its best customers: China.
China’s first direct competitor to Boeing (BA) and Airbus’ dominant single-aisle jets, the Comac C919, made its first test flight in May 2017.