Cape Town - European aircraft manufacturer Airbus is going ahead with plans to establish an assembly line for its A320 aircraft in the USA.
The investment in the Mobile, Alabama facility is worth an estimated $600m and is seen as a challenge to Airbus' biggest competitor, Boeing. The US is seen as home base for Boeing.
Airbus calls the move a "major strategic" step, and says the US is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world.
The move by Airbus may have a positive knock-on effect for several South African companies.
South Africa's Aerosud, Cobham and Advanced Aerospace Composites currently supply Airbus and its customers with parts and components for the A320 family of jetliners.
The planned manufacturing facility will be responsible for assembling and delivering A320 family aircraft. Airbus' first US-based production facility will be located at the Brookley Aeroplex in Mobile.
Airbus stressed that the assembly line, which will create jobs and strengthen the aerospace industry, is part of its strategy to enhance global competitiveness by meeting the growing needs of Airbus customers in the United States and elsewhere.
Aircraft assembly is planned to start in 2015, with first deliveries from the Mobile facility beginning in 2016. Airbus anticipates the facility will produce between 40 and 50 aircraft per year by 2018.
“The time is right for Airbus to expand in America,” Airbus president & CEO Fabrice Brégier said in a statement on Monday.
“The US is the largest single-aisle aircraft market in the world – with a projected need for 4 600 aircraft over the next 20 years - and this assembly line brings us closer to our customers.
"Mobile is now becoming part of Airbus’ global production network, joining our successful and growing assembly lines in Hamburg and Toulouse."