SHANGHAI (AFP) – Makers of the world’s private jets are looking to promote their aircraft as business tools in China rather than luxury toys for the super-rich, as a corruption crackdown slows sales in the country.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping launched a drive against graft after he came to power in late 2012, accompanied by policies to enforce austerity among officials – hiting sectors ranging from high-end liquor to luxury watches.
The market for private jets is a small, albeit fast-growing aviation segment in China, but the corruption campaign has taken some heat out of the market, according to industry officials.
“We’re in this anti-extravagant thing so numbers are down a little bit,” said Briand Greer, president of Honeywell Aerospace for Asia-Pacific, which supplies the aviation industry.
“To me it’s like the river has slowed a little bit. Growth will be there, but it’s a different period right now,” he told AFP.
The first US Gulfstream jets only arrived in China in 2003, widely seen as the dawn of the new market. By 2013, there were an estimated 248 business jets in China – a 28 per cent jump from 2012, according to consultancy Asian Sky Group.
At China’s premier airshow in Zhuhai earlier this month, major players including Gulfstream, Canada’s Bombardier and Brazilian firm Embraer put their products on display.
Even the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, the country’s major civil aircraft maker, showed a plastic model of a new business version of its ARJ21 regional jet, as it seeks to steal market share away from foreign firms. “Business jets should not be treated as a luxury product because it’s considered a business tool to improve efficiency,” said Christine Yan, Bombardier’s China marketing manager for business aircraft and aerospace.
“As long as this benefit can be recognised… in the long run it’s still a very good outlook,” she told AFP on the sidelines of the airshow.
Manufacturers remain positive about the longer-term outlook for the China market, citing steady economic growth and Chinese companies heading abroad to do business.
“For a long time, it’s been wealthy individuals buying a jet because they needed somewhere to put their money. It was cool to have a business jet,” said Greer of Honeywell.
“There’s starting to be a recognition that this is a tool that you can utilise to be more efficient,” he said.
But Chinese customers for private jets are undoubtedly concentrated among the country’s wealthy, with the aircraft sometimes costing tens of millions of dollars – Airbus gave a list price of $80 million when it unveiled a budget version of its ACJ319 corporate jet earlier this year.
Bombardier’s popular Global 5000, which seats up to 12 people, lists for just over $50 million while the longer-range Global 6000 is $62 million, according to the company.