27 September 2011 by Pelle Neroth
Searching through the recently released Wikileaks cable file* looking for technology-related diplomatic dispatches (so you don't have to) I found the following interesting documentation of national conflict at EADS, the mainly French-German aerospace giant BAE had a close collaboration with, through Airbus, until BAE sold its 20% share in Airbus in 2006.
Two very senior German EADS officials met the political officer of the US Brussels embassy. Talking frankly, they said EADS's problems stemmed from "France's inability to come to terms with the fact it was incapable of maintaining its own national aerospace industry".
In the 1960s, France launched the Dassault Mercure, a French attempt to compete with the Boeing 737, but it only sold 17 units.
Despite this failure, the Germans said that the French view seems to be that France is the innovator, uniquely capable of coming up with aircraft concepts/designs, while the Germans are content with product execution.
"Not only was this not the case, but the A380 was actually the brainchild of a German engineer," one said.
The embassy described one German official looking at the other and saying, in mock astonishment. "What, you mean to say we are not a French company??"
Airbus has been very successful, unlike France's solitary efforts.
In 2005, the French CEO Neil Forgeard was ejected, leaving a trail of controversy and a drop in share prices.
"He tried to abolish the dual leadership structure, two CEOs, one from Germany, one from France, in order to grab the top job for himself."
The German official added that the power grab was driven by prestige, because "to be on an equal footing with his counterparts in French industry, namely the CEOs of the CAC-40 firms, Forgeard needed to be unrivaled in his leadership of the company -- not a co-CEO".
On another note, the German EADS officials said BAE' s selling its shares in EADS was a case of "good riddance" since it couldn't decide whether it was a European or a quasi-American company.
*251,000 US diplomatic cables here, browsable
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Edited: 28 September 2011 at 12:31 PM by Pelle Neroth
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 27 September 2011 10:02 AM Transport
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