Italian Aerospace Industry

An Expert's View about Aerospace in Italy

Posted on: 28 Mar 2012

With a turnover of 12.8 million USD and a workforce of 40,000, the Italian aerospace industry ranks 7th in
the world and 4th in Europe and represents the largest manufacturing sector in Italy in the field of hightech
integrated systems. The Italian aeronautical industry is a strategic area supported by national and
regional programs and characterized by international collaboration. The key players are Finmeccanica, its
subsidiaries, a wide network of SMEs, research centers and universities. Italy is well integrated in
international projects and has primarily fostered relationships with non-European partners.
The Finmeccanica Group (60 percent owned by the government) has a leading role in the aerospace,
defense and security sectors. The Group holds a 50 percent share in Agusta Westland, the world’s
second biggest producer of civil helicopters, and owns Alenia Aermacchi and the Avio Group. Alenia
Aermacchi is a recent merger of Alenia Aeronautica and its subsidiaries Alenia, Aermacchi and Alenia
SIA. Alenia Aermacchi manufactures products for military and commercial aircraft, turboprops, aero
structures, advanced mission systems, unmanned aerial systems (UAS), parts, subassemblies and is a
provider of aircraft maintenance services. It is the world leader in the production of training aircraft. Avio
– founded by Fiat and now owned by Finmeccanica and the British private equity firm Cinven – is one of
the oldest companies operating in the aerospace industry worldwide and a leading manufacturer of
aircraft and naval engines and a leader in space propulsion. Another important player is Piaggio Aero
Industries that designs, develops, constructs and maintains aircraft, engines and aircraft structural
components. Mubadala Development Company and the Tata Group are stakeholders in the company.
The main civil industrial programs and partnerships in which the Italian industry participates include:
Boeing 787 Dreamliner: Alenia North America and the Boeing Company set up the joint venture “Global
Aeronautica” to produce the 787 Dreamliner, a mid-sized, wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner. Alenia
produces composite fuselage and horizontal stabilizers for the B787. Fuselage parts are integrated in the
industrial complex in Grottaglie prior to shipment to the Boeing assembly facility in Everett, WA.
EADS Airbus: Alenia Aermacchi is a partner in the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company
N.V. (EADS). It produces aero structures for the A321 and A340–500/600, and supplies fuselage parts
for the A380. In an equal-share joint venture with EADS, Alenia Aeronautica owns ATR that dominates
the regional turboprop market.
Superjet 100: In partnership with the Russian company Sukhoi, Alenia has developed an advanced
environmentally-friendly regional jet. Finmeccanica owns 25 percent of Sukhoi's civil division.
ATR: The EADS and Alenia Aermacchi JV holds four-fifths of its market segment worldwide. ATR will
produce 70 planes in 2012 and 80 in 2013. The turboprop market has gained importance due in part to
rising fuel costs.
U.S. companies remain leaders in terms of the strength of aircraft manufacturers and also in the supply of
aircraft parts. In Europe, more than 70 percent of aircraft related imports originate from the United States,
and 30 percent of these imports are parts and components. U.S. exports of civil aircraft, engines and
parts to Italy totaled 630 million USD in 2011. U.S. suppliers will continue to benefit from this competitive

Market Entry
The best market entry strategy is the identification of tier 1 companies that integrate products with their
own in order to provide comprehensive solutions to the most relevant players in Italy.
Market access in this industry is rooted in strong relationships with key players. U.S. companies that do
not wish to operate with a direct presence should have an agent or distributor that is well introduced and
knowledgeable. Distribution practices and industrial competence play a fundamental and very delicate
role in the aerospace industry. Entry is often by direct sales to end users through an agent/distributor, or
through an indirect distribution channel (retailers, wholesale dealers, installers, etc.). Most manufacturers
make use of an established distribution network that covers all related services as installation, routine
maintenance and after sales support.
Financing and trade practices adhere to normal Italian business standards. The majority of financial
transactions are handled through private agreements and banking institutions. Italian firms indicate that
some U.S. suppliers are too rigid in their payment terms and have thus lost business to other suppliers.
Financing is considered as much a competitive factor as the product itself, the delivery date, or after-sales
service. While some U.S. manufacturers request payment upon receipt of the goods, more successful
sellers offer terms allowing settlement of the account from 60 to 120 days following the invoice date,
which is the most common practice in Italy. More information regarding the business climate can be
found in the Country Commercial Guide:

Current Market Trends
The Italian aerospace industry is characterized by clusters located in close proximity of Alenia Aemacchi
and its subsidiaries. The regions that host these clusters include Piedmont, Lombardy, Lazio, Puglia and
Campania. Incentives are provided by regional policies to support investments. Technological and
manufacturing know-how includes: fixed wing (Alenia), rotating wing (Augusta Westland), propulsion,
software, fuselage components, design and assembly of parts (in aluminum, titanium and composite
materials), metallurgy, mechanics, electro-mechanics, electronics, manufacturing and processing of
plastics, rubber and all high-performance materials for complex applications. About 25 percent of the
national companies operating in the sector are located in the Campania cluster (29 major companies
plus 130 sub-suppliers). The Piedmont cluster is a production and scientific pole whose focus is
technological innovation. Turin University Polytechnic and other specialized research centers provide
design and R&D services. Five regional players and over 300 SMEs stand out at national and
international level, both in civil and military fields.
The tendency during the last several years has been the creation of inter-regional clusters in order to
streamline the supply chain to match activities with the expertise of Italy’s research centers and
universities. Inter-regional clusters have been formed by the Campania and Puglia regions, and by
Campania, Puglia and Piedmont.
With its industrial backbone of smaller enterprises, Italian industry has made an effort to support
subsystem integrators who have the necessary financial and management resources. Secondly, Italian
industry policy aims to strengthen its stake in the civil market, particularly since it must lessen the
dependency on the defense market that has been reduced due to budget constraints. The partnership
with Sukhoi is an example of Italy’s goal to become an important player in the civil aviation market.
Another trend of Italian aviation companies is the establishment of production sites in North Africa and
global sourcing.
The Alitalia (main carrier) fleet is perhaps the youngest in Europe and comprised of 144 aircraft. A
modernization process began in 2009 with the introduction of the new Airbus A320. In 2012, at least 20
new planes will join and 16 old planes will leave the Alitalia fleet. On the long-haul routes, service is provided by the Boeing 777-200, Boeing 767-300 Extended-Range version and Airbus A330. On
medium-haul routes, service is provided by the Airbus A321, A320 and A319, MD80 and MD82. Service
on the regional routes is provided by the Embraer 170, 175, 190 and Bombardier CRJ900. Alitalia’s low
cost carrier Air One plans a fleet of 10 Airbus A320 aircraft by 2012.

Read the full market research report

Posted: 28 March 2012

See more from Aerospace in Italy

Expert Views    
Aerospace opportunities   By UK Trade & Investment
Italian Aerospace Industry   By U.S. Commercial Service Italy
Hot Tips    
Airport and Ground Support Equipment in Italy   By U.S. Commercial Service Italy
Presenting the contributor