With loudspeakers blasting out the 1974 rock anthem "Sweet Home Alabama", European jetmaker Airbus inaugurated its first U.S. plant Monday in a move to wrest away a chunk of Boeing's domination of the domestic aircraft market including lucrative Pentagon contracts.
Airbus plans to assemble 40-50 of its single-aisle A320 family every year beginning in 2018 from the plant, built on the site of a World War II bomber support base in Mobile, Alabama.
Governor Robert Bentley called it "a great day for Mobile and all the state of Alabama."
The company expects the new plant, which will employ 1,000 workers in the final assembly of the aircraft, to help reduce production costs and make them more competitive price-wise. Another important aim of the new facility is greater access to the huge U.S. defense budget: Airbus's identity as a foreign maker helped undermine its fight in 2011 against Boeing for a $30 billion Pentagon contract for air refueling tankers.
"It's a historic day," said Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier. "Having an assembly line in the United States will increase our visibility."