Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp rebrands MRJ family jets to “SpaceJet”

Analysts say, this exercise, of strategic value, will help improve the company’s sales in the U.S.

In a significant development, Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp rebranded its MRJ family jets, which will now be called “SpaceJet” and unveiled a redesigned version of the smaller jet, in a move aimed at improving its sales prospects in the larger U.S. market.

The SpaceJet M100, the revamped version of the MRJ70, will now have up to 76 seats in a typical U.S. cabin configuration rather than the earlier 69 seats, said the company in a statement; this seating arrangement makes it more more attractive for regional carriers who have contracts with major carriers.

“On paper, it looks good,” said Bjorn Fehrm, an analyst with Leeham Co of the redesign. “The range is there, as is the space for the passengers.”

Incidentally, the larger SpaceJet M90, renamed from MRJ90, is too big for U.S. regional carriers to fly without the relaxation of pilot union rules; this is unlikelt given the shortage of pilots in the U.S., which provides the unions more bargaining power.

Of the 213 firm orders for Mitsubishi jets, 150 are split between two U.S. regional carriers, SkyWest Inc and Trans States Holdings.

“The M100 cabin interior will be on display at next week’s Paris Airshow and Mitsubishi Aircraft said a formal launch of the program was expected later this year”, said the company in a statement.

The M90 is due to enter service with Japanese carrier ANA Holdings Inc next year, compared with its initial target of 2013, after a series of program delays.

Earlier this month, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, the largest shareholder in Mitsubishi Aircraft, stated it was holding talks to buy rival Bombardier Inc’s money-losing regional jet program.

According to analysts, although the Bombardier CRJs uses older, less fuel-efficient engines, buying the program provides Mitsubishi a global maintenance and support base that could aid with SpaceJet sales.



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