This Is How Airbus Beat Boeing in 2013

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As the final minutes tick down toward the end of 2013, it's becoming clear: Boeing is so far behind Airbus in the race to sell planes this year... that there's just about no way Boeing can catch up.

Now how did that happen?

After all, just one year ago, Boeing absolutely crushed Airbus in a similar race to win sales. After subtracting out cancellations, Boeing booked orders for a net 1,203 airplanes of various shapes and sizes in 2012. That was 370 planes more than Airbus sold -- a margin of victory 44 percentage points wide.

But fast-forward 12 months, and here's how the numbers stand in these final days of 2013:




Gross plane orders in 2013 ...



Minus customer cancellations ...



Equals net orders for the year:



Sources: Airbus, Boeing

That Boeing and Airbus should switch positions from winner to loser, and vice versa, so quickly is nothing short of astounding. And yet, if you dig deeper into the numbers, you can see how it happened.

Historically, Boeing's biggest moneymaker has been its 737 single-aisle regional jet -- its self-proclaimed "best-selling commercial aircraft in aviation history." With more than 11,500 orders placed since inception, and a backlog of 3,400 orders yet to be filled, this franchise looked unassailable. But in 2013, as Boeing focused on making up lost time from production delays at its 787 widebody program, Airbus found an opening to make inroads in the regional jet market.

You can see the results below, for Boeing...


Single-aisle 737s

Widebody 777s and 787s

2013 Gross Orders






2013 Net Orders



Source: Boeing

And for Airbus...


Single-aisle A319s, A320s, and A321s

Widebody A330s and A350s

2013 Gross Orders






2013 Net Orders



Source: Airbus

What we've done here is set orders for Boeing 747 jets and Airbus 380s to the side, and just focused on the two businesses in their roughly comparable "halves" -- single aisles and wide-bodies. This makes it a bit easier to see what happened this year.

In a nutshell: Boeing and Airbus ran a dead heat on wide-bodies, but Airbus ran away with the race in single aisles. Across the two plane makers' combined fleets, Airbus sold 22.5% more planes than Boeing; but in single aisles, that margin of victory widened past 31%, with Airbus selling 248 more A319s, A320s, and A321s than Boeing sold 737s.

Foolish takeaway
And the good news for Boeing shareholders? In order for Boeing to recapture the sales lead from Airbus in 2014, all it really needs to do is sell more units of its already best-selling, lowest-price, most-profitable airplane. Gee -- twist their arm, why don't you?

Boeing's 737. Time for sales of this bird to go up, up, and away. Source: Boeing

Heads, you win; tails, you don't lose
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The article This Is How Airbus Beat Boeing in 2013 originally appeared on

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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