The recent finding by the World Trade Organization that European countries illegally subsidized the development of Airbus planes has created a problem for parent company EADS. It wants to prove it isn’t hurting American workers, but it also wants to keep the subsidies flowing. What to do? One approach is to tell different audiences different “facts” about how Airbus planes are built.
So in a September 25 letter to members of Congress about the company’s bid to provide a future tanker for the U.S. Air Force, Airbus says, “the Airbus product line is 45% U.S. sourced.” Not bad — even France doesn’t supply that much Airbus content. But back in Paris, where the subsidies originate, EADS has a different story. The company told Les Echos, the Parisian equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, that 21% of the content on Airbus planes comes from North America.
Of course, that was two years ago — maybe Airbus has doubled U.S. content since then, right? Only problem is, two years before that the head of EADS told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that 31% of Airbus commercial planes are “American-made.” Airbus must have an amazingly agile supply chain to vary U.S. content so much from year to year. Then again, maybe the agility is concentrated in its public relations office, which knows what various audiences want to hear.
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