Dreamliner deliveries off to a slow start in 2015

Scoot, a low-cost affiliate of Singapore Airlines, took delivery of one of Boeing’s Dreamliner airplanes in January. That plane was built in Washington.

January was a disappointing month for Dreamliner deliveries, based on Boeing Co.’s stated goals, but the manufacturer fulfilled enough orders for its other airplanes to edge French competitor Airbus for the early lead in their annual orders and deliveries race.

Boeing delivered seven 787s last month, according to numbers released this week, including three made at the company’s North Charleston plant. The others were made at Boeing’s sister Dreamliner facility in Everett, Wash.

The locally made Dreamliners — all of them Dash-8 models — went to Dutch leasing company AerCap; TUI Group, a European travel provider; and Australian airline Qantas.

The seven 787 deliveries are far short of the 10-per-month Boeing will have to bring to customers in order to meet its stated guidance of at least 120 deliveries for 2015.

“It is the beginning of the new year and Boeing has been a bit slow to ramp up activities after the holiday season, but they will need to make a much stronger showing in February and March,” Uresh Sheth, a Wall Street banker and Dreamliner analyst, said on his “All Things 787” blog.

Sheth said it is “highly doubtful” Boeing will be able to meet the 15 Dreamliner deliveries tentatively scheduled for this month, adding that he believes “in the best case scenario, they will deliver 11 to 13.”

The first Dash-9 model — a longer and more fuel-efficient version of the Dreamliner — to have been built in North Charleston is scheduled for delivery to United Airlines on March 15. The next North Charleston-built Dash-9 will be going to Scoot, a low-cost affiliate of Singapore Airlines, in April.

North Charleston had a better production rate on its 787s delivered last month with each Dreamliner on the production line for an average of 100 days, according to data provided by Sheth. The rate for Everett, Wash.-built Dreamliners was 127 days, with combined production coming in at one Dreamliner every 113 days.

All told, Boeing delivered 49 airplanes in January to beat Airbus’ 36 deliveries for the month. Each manufacturer received five orders during the month.

Boeing didn’t receive any Dreamliner orders in January, but it has more than a seven-year production backlog for the company’s newest and best-selling airplane, a twin-aisle product made of lightweight and fuel-efficient carbon composite materials.

The Volkswagen Group is looking for an East Coast port to handle inbound shipments of its automobiles from Germany. But the lack of a vehicle processing center has put the Port of Charleston out of the running.

“Auto imports require a vehicle processing center, which we do not have today and have not currently planned to establish one,” said Jim Newsome, president and CEO of the State Ports Authority. “Our main focus is on export auto vehicles at this stage.”

Newsome said the Port of Charleston might establish a processing center in the future if there’s enough demand, but auto importers typically want to ship their cars to large population bases, such as Florida.

“We do not compete well in that regard,” Newsome said, adding that the Port of Charleston used to import BMWs but the German manufacturer moved the business to the port in Brunswick, Ga., to be closer to the Florida market. BMW remains one of the Charleston port’s largest exporters for its cars made in Greer.

In 2002, Porsche Cars of North America closed its local import center and relocated that operation to Baltimore and Georgia.

VW hasn’t chosen a port, but Brunswick is among the finalists, along with Baltimore, Houston and Jacksonville.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_