Canadian manufacturer of business jets, Bombardier has unveiled an upscale variant of its Challenger 350 business jet as part of efforts to protect its dominant market share in the segment and capitalize on higher demand for private flying during the pandemic.
According to reports, the refreshed variant, named Challenger 3500, seats up to 10 passengers and comes with voice-controlled cabin systems like lighting, and a smaller version of the chaise lounge seats found on Bombardier’s flagship Global 7500.
In a chat with newsmen, Chief Executive Éric Martel said the Challenger 3500, expected to enter service in the second half of 2022, will list for $26.7 million, the same price as the 350.
Reports have it that though Bombardier has been focused on paying down debt after facing a cash crunch in 2015, pressure is mounted on it to refresh the Challenger in a market where wealthy buyers demand the latest features.
Harping further on the development, the group’s boss said the changes would help Bombardier keep Challenger as the market leader in the super-midsized segment, which bridges small corporate planes and long-range aircraft that can seat 19.
While noting that cabin features are key for Challenger customers, Martel said “We’re raising the bar in that category”.
It is important to note that the plane competes with Embraer SA’s (EMBR3.SA) Praetors, Textron Inc’s (TXT.N) Cessna Citation Longitude and the G280 from General Dynamics Corp’s (GD.N) Gulfstream Aerospace.
Remarking on the unveiling of the new variant which would likely stimulate demand, Vertical Research Partners analyst Robert Stallard questioned whether the changes are enough, given fierce sector competition.
In a note to his clients which was obtained by newsmen, Stallard said “If Gulfstream comes out with a clean sheet replacement for the G280, then the Challenger 3500 is likely to have a fight on its hands”.
Reacting to the development in an emailed statement, Gulfstream said it “remains confident in the G280’s proven track record and are committed to enhancing it even further.”
Martel said clarified that spending on the new 3500 variants is contained within Bombardier’s expected CAPEX of $200 million to $250 million.