Bombardier, the company that pioneered regional jet manufacturing in Canada, has completed its exit from the passenger plane market, selling its CRJ programme to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for $724 million.
The deal was made public Tuesday in Montreal, after weeks of talks.
“We are very pleased to announce this agreement, which represents the completion of Bombardier’s aerospace transformation,” said Alain Bellemare, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bombardier Inc. “We are confident that MHI’s acquisition of the program is the best solution for airline customers, employees and shareholders. We are committed to ensuring a smooth and orderly transition.”
The sale signals the end of the Canadair Regional Jet line. Bombardier, which had manufactured 1,900 CRJs by the end of March, has a backlog of only 42 aircraft yet to be delivered, with few new orders in recent years. Those aircraft will be built at a Bombardier plant near Montreal, and delivered by the end of next year.
Bombardier said the transaction means it will be able to focus on building business jets.
The company had already sold its De Havilland division to Longview Aviation in November, and in 2017 handed control of the C-Series – now rebranded as the A220 – to Airbus.
At the same time, the sale is a major step forward for Mitsubishi’s regional jet programme, rebranded as the Spacejet two weeks ago, and instantly gives the manufacturer a major presence in North America.
“We are working hard to ensure that we provide new profit potential for airlines and set a new standard for passenger experience,” said Seiji Izumisawa, President & CEO of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. “This transaction represents one of the most important steps in our strategic journey to build a strong, global aviation capability.”
“It is something that was in the cards,” said federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau. “The facility at Mirabel [Quebec] that is building the CRJ will continue to operate as well.”
“The CRJ program has been supported by tremendously talented individuals,” said Izumisawa. “In combination with our existing infrastructure and resources in Japan, Canada and elsewhere, we are confident that this represents one effective strategy that will contribute to the future success of the Mitsubishi SpaceJet family. MHI has a decades-long history in Canada, and I hope this transaction will result in the expansion of our presence in the country, and will represent a significant step in our growth strategy.”
While the fuselage was small and early versions could not take much in the way of carry-on bags, the CRJ brought jet service to plenty of routes that didn’t have it before, opening new possibilities that were too long to be comfortably served by propeller aircraft, and too thin to be operated by larger jets. Air Canada bet big on CRJs, ordering a total of 56 of various sizes and passenger capacities.